On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen, and his senior advisors landed in Cairo, Egypt. The V.P. held 2 1/2 hours of meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, following by a two hour dinner. Early reports in the media and from my sources in Cairo are very positive. I’ll post more details soon.
Late Saturday night, Air Force Two headed to Amman, Jordan, where the V.P. and his team will stay overnight. On Sunday morning, the V.P. will meet with King Abdullah II. I anticipate those talks to be more sensitive than the ones in Cairo.
The Jerusalem Post has just published a new column of mine, examining the V.P.’s trip from a somewhat different angle than the column I wrote Friday for Fox News. In this one, I look at the Trump administration’s four policy objectives in the Middle East and the progress they are making with each. I also examine the enormously challenging balancing act Vice President Pence has undertaken on this trip in which he will be welcomed so warmly by the Israelis but urgently needs to strengthen strained ties with Egypt and Jordan, as well as seek a way to repair relations with the Palestinians.
Please continue to pray that the trip goes well and each of these relationships improves.
The following are excerpts from the Jerusalem Post op-ed. To read the column in full, please click here.
As US Vice President Mike Pence arrives in the Middle East, he has a tough needle to thread. Israeli support for the Trump administration is soaring. The Arab street is furious.
Can he deliver a convincing message that the US truly wants to be a regional peace-maker? And having delivered more than most Israelis expected in the first year, is the vice president authorized to announce specific policies to strengthen America’s critically important alliances with Egypt and Jordan, even as the Palestinians refuse to see him?
It’s worth zooming out for a moment to put Pence’s trip in context.
The Trump-Pence administration came into office a year ago with four specific strategic objectives in the region.
The first was to crush Islamic State (ISIS), dismantle the genocidal grip of the “caliphate” that controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and prevent ISIS foreign fighters from being able to attack and kill Americans….
The administration’s second objective in the region was to dramatically reorient America’s policy toward Iran….
The administration’s third objective was to rebuild the US-Israeli alliance, badly damaged during the Obama years. In this it has far surpassed expectations. Polls show Israeli support for Trump has skyrocketed. In May, 56% said he is “pro-Israel.” Today, that number is 76%….
Which brings us to the administration’s fourth objective: rebuilding America’s alliances with the Arab world, also damaged during the Obama years. This initiative started off quite well, despite Trump’s incendiary “Muslim ban” pledge during the campaign….
A year later, however, this strategy is foundering. The president’s Jerusalem decision –how it was made, why it was made and when it was announced — has infuriated the Palestinians, who have cut off relations with the White House. It has also seriously complicated US relations with Jordan (a country whose population is about 70% Palestinian), and much of the Sunni Arab world.
Trump’s nuances — that the boundaries of the Holy City still need to be negotiated, thus keeping the door open to a possible Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem; and saying the status quo of the holy sites must be protected — either weren’t heard or weren’t believed. As one senior Arab official told me, “Very few people in our part of the world watched President Trump’s full speech. Fewer still read it. All they heard was the headline, ‘Trump gives Jerusalem to the Jews.’” Palestinian leaders should be using the moment to re-engage in peace talks, not continue to boycott them. Their people urgently need a final resolution to this painful conflict.
Until that happens, the vice president should focus on bolstering relations with Egypt and Jordan, two faithful and vitally important allies….
The vice president has an unenviable task. One trip can’t fix everything. But taking a victory lap before the Knesset and coming empty-handed to Amman and Cairo would seriously set back US interests in the region.
[Photo: Vice President Pence met on Saturday with Egyptian President el-Sisi. Early reports indicate the conversations were very positive.]