CHÁVEZ: Pence’s AIPAC Speech Rekindles the Spark of Violence in the Middle East

VP Mike Pence revives Trump’s promises to Israel

Vice President Mike Pence has sparked international anger by reviving Donald Trump’s promises to Israel at the expense of damaging opportunities for a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Speaking at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the speech resembled more closely resembled a political campaign than a nuanced policy discussion.

Pence opened thus:

“It is great to be back to AIPAC! The largest, the most influential gathering of the friends of Israel and the united States. And it is my great privilege to speak on behalf of a true friend of Israel; a courageous defender of freedom… President Donald Trump.” 

Pence told thousands of pro-Israel activists that “America stands with Israel” and destroyed years of U.S. foreign policy of neutrality and conflict management seeking. The VP reiterated that the United States is still considering moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“After decades of simply talking about it, the President of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
In fact, as explained by CNN, in 1995 Congress passed a law to move the embassy, but Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama signed waivers to suspend that law. It’s been a promise of President Donald Trump since the presidential campaign, one reiterated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a press conference last month. The waiver signed by Obama is due to expire June 1.
The proposal to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem has sparked international anger, especially within the Arab world since both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital city. If the U.S. would indeed move its embassy, it would indirectly show recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would therefore kill all possibilities for the two-state solution—badly retarding efforts to reach a peace agreement.
Nevertheless, Pence’s speech made it crystal clear that Trump’s administration will break with decades of hard-fought efforts and dilligent neutrality, and will instead support Israel bluntly. Not only did Pence refer to the “Holy Land” as being in Israel (this being Jerusalem), he promised America will not allow the United Nations to speak against Israel anymore, not to allow the U.S. military support to Israel be negotiable ever again, and said:
“President Trump and I stand with Israel for the same reason every freedom-loving American stands with Israel: because her cause is our cause, her values are our values, and her fight is our fight.”
Pence also used his AIPAC speech to reassure Israel that the U.S. will continue supporting the country’s security and position in the Middle East, stating that President Trump “will stand without apology” for – what he called – the Jewish state, against any threat posed by another country in the region, in particular Iran.
“America will no longer tolerate Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region and jeopardize Israel’s security. The ayatollahs in Tehran openly admit their desire to wipe Israel off the map and drive its people into the sea. For decades, Iran has funneled weapons and cash to terrorists in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip. They’ve gone to great lengths to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Due to the disastrous end of nuclear-related sanctions under the Iran deal, they now have additional resources to devote to sowing chaos and imperiling Israel. So let me be clear, under President Donald Trump, the United States of America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is our solemn promise to you, to Israel, and to the world.”
The position of the U.S. towards the Israel-Palestine conflict took another step backwards with Pence not raising the issue of Israeli illegal settlements on Palestinian territory; a topic that was strongly criticized by former President Obama.
Pence’s inflammatory speech represents a huge step backwards for the Middle Eastern conflict. His words also damage the country’s position of leadership, for this has not been built solely on military or economic power, but also on its diplomatic strength. Yet, starting Sunday, all neutrality, a key diplomatic trait, disappeared from the U.S. foreign policy towards Israel. It would not be a surprise if violence escalates even more in the region; unfortunately, if it does, Palestine now has an enormous disadvantage.

Featured image via Conservative Daily News screengrab

From Mexico City, Carolina has lived in five different countries, experiences she defines as the most enriching. She has focused her studies and work on international conflicts and international security issues, diplomacy and protocol. Carolina holds two MA degrees and hopes to begin her PhD studies soon.