U.S. Warns Abbas: Meeting With Pence Must Take Place

YERUSHALAYIM -
Texas church
Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The United States expects the Palestinian Authority to welcome Vice President Mike Pence when he arrives in the region in the coming days, Washington has warned Ramallah. A BBC report said that the warning came after a top PA official said that Pence was “not welcome in Palestine.”

Pence is set to arrive in Israel on December 17, the Foreign Ministry announced this week. The visit comes in the wake of the decision by President Donald Trump to recognize Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital, a decision White House sources said that Pence fully supported. Pence will speak at the Knesset.

In an interview Sunday, the Jerusalem Post reported, Pence said in his remarks “[we] reaffirm our commitment to peace in the region.” But, he said, “people should know that President Donald Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the State of Israel in the midst of that process.” The visit to Israel had been planned before Trump’s announcement.

Pence could go to Yerushalayim, but he was “not welcome” in Ramallah, said Fatah senior official Jibril Rajoub. Speaking to Reuters Thursday, he said that a meeting between Pence and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas would not be “productive” for Palestinians. Washington sent a message overnight to Abbas that it expected Ramallah to meet with Pence when he arrives in the region.

Abbas has decried the announcement, saying that the U.S. declaration “will lead to an endless war. These steps contribute to the efforts of radical groups that wish to start a religious war. We have been warning about this possibility for a long time.”

Hamas top terrorist Ismail Haniyeh earlier Thursday called for a “new intfada. This decision is a declaration of war on the Palestinians. We call on all and will do everything we can to foster a new intifada, and we call on the entire Palestinian nation to join us.”

The U.S. decision also put into question whether there was any point to the reconciliation deal with Fatah, if the point of that was to create a united front for negotiations with Israel, Haniyeh said. “This announcement is proof that the Oslo process is dead. We must complete the reconciliation agreement, and establish a joint front to battle Israel and the United States.”

In a separate announcement, Islamic Jihad said that the decision by Trump to recognize Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital and order the eventual move of the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv was a “punch in the face to all those seeking a peace agreement. Arab countries who truly want to help the Palestinians should remove their ambassadors from the United States.”