Opinion

Mike Pence Just Confirmed America's Exit From the Mideast Peace Process

When Pence says: 'We stand with Israel. Your cause is our cause, your fight is our fight', it's clear America is only interested in offering Israel blind political support and abandoning the Palestinians. Real peace must now mean circumventing the U.S. administration

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem. January 22, 2018
ARIEL SCHALIT/AFP

U.S. Vice President Pence couldn't have said it more clearly.

"I am here to convey one simple message. America stands with Israel. We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight," he said Monday in Israel's Knesset.

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right: . left: tertertert. credit: Getty Images IL, tertre

>>FULL TEXT: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's speech at Israel's Knesset

Palestinians shout slogans as they demonstrate against U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Israel. Nablus, in the Israeli occupied West Bank. January 22, 2018
JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP

He doubled down on the Trump administration's plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem, and repeated, mantra-like, the claim that the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital was justified as "fact". The word "Palestinian" was barely mentioned, and "Palestine" – not at all.

Pence also said the U.S. would support a two-state solution, but only if both sides support it – echoing Trump's comments at his Jerusalem announcement. The meaning? The U.S. is abandoning the two-state solution. A sovereign Palestinian state is no longer a necessary and critical aim of U.S. foreign policy.

>>Mike Pence's Zionist sermon at Knesset casts him as Hero of Israel, Horseman of Trumpacolypse | Analysis

Donald Trump, it appears, will do nothing to stop or rebuke Israel's accelerated settlement building, or its retroactive licensing of outposts built on private Palestinian land, having watered-down the tired-old U.S. rhetoric of "settlements are an obstacle to peace" to settlements "may not be helpful" to peace. So their construction will continue, indefinitely.

Israel’s settlement enterprise has bought, and the U.S. willingly sold, time and space to further entrench itself, thereby making the realization of a two-state solution increasingly impossible.

In light of this reality, the international community must now recognize that "the U.S. leads" approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is doomed to failure. There now appears no doubt that the elusive peace will not happen anytime during Trump’s presidency. It is blindingly clear - in light of two decades of failed negotiations under U.S. auspices - that  American leadership in this conflict resolution efforts is pointless and counter-productive.

If the international community’s policy is to achieve two states for two peoples, it will have to pursue an independent policy position that circumvents the Americans. The international community’s political influence in this arena has long been negligible, given the U.S. monopoly over the peace process. Now, it's time for them to step up.

The international community has relied on the wrong leadership for too long. This tragic, historic mistake has not only cost international community taxpayers billions, but has also led to a reality that is the diametric opposite of what global policy-makers intended.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

After 24 years, reliance on American "leadership" has led to the creation of numerous Palestinian Bantustans, surrounded by an occupying military power that continues to occupy with impunity, bankrolled by European taxpayers: the EU and its member states are by far the largest donors to the Palestinians.

Israel - delighted that another party is willing to subsidize its military occupation - continues to expand and consolidate its settlement enterprise, with the support of large sections of the American public and government.

Historically, the U.S. and EU have shared a common objective of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the framework of a two-state solution. But just as Trump occupies the White House, and Republicans now control all three branches of U.S. government, there's been a significant shift to the right in the GOP’s policy to Israel-Palestine.

By contrast, Europeans have moved towards recognition of the State of Palestine. Sweden’s recognition is now official while parliaments in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, France, Luxembourg, along with the European Parliament, have all approved recognition. Following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, all indications are that more countries will move to recognize Palestine in order to safeguard the two-state solution.

America supports Israel's occupation. Europe inadvertently subsidizes that occupation.

The Trump administration will do little to antagonize its own party or risk the wrath of Israel’s influential pro-settlement lobby in the U.S. Trump will continue to advocate a hands-off, "it’s up to the two parties to decide" approach. As a result, Israel, which has all the power, has little incentive to concede, while the Palestinians, who have no power, and are supposedly "protected" under international law, are left to their own despair.

America is part of the problem

Palestinians receive food aid at a U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) warehouse in the Shati refugee camp, Gaza City, as the U.S. administration announced it is cutting funding to to the UN agency. Jan. 14, 2018
Khalil Hamra/AP

Israeli intransigence and blatant violation of international law is fuelled by its belief that, no matter what its does, the U.S. will always insulate it from meaningful rebuke. Palestinian desperation is driven by a conviction that America’s overwhelming support to Israel makes negotiations pointless, as Israel has little incentive to concede when it receives so much money, weapons and blind political support.

So what can the international community do more than vote against Trump’s statement in the various chambers of the United Nations? The international community can roll up its sleeves, play power politics, and take on the occupier, without waiting for American leadership to produce results.

If the experiences of Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and South Africa are anything to go by, an occupier or an apartheid regime will only change its ways with a nuanced combination of sanctions, international isolation and, as a last resort, military force.

The international community must rise to the occasion and demonstrate to its constituents that Europe is squandering its money and credibility by indulging in American charades of impartiality. It is clear that America has no moral or political qualms with Israel remaining an occupying force.

Once the international community finally acknowledges this reality and moves on, it will find the strength and legitimacy to propose policies of its own, in line with its international law, the UN Charter and its own moral standards.

Sam Bahour is a policy analyst with Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and a secretariat member of the Palestine Strategy Group. He blogs at www.epalestine.com. Twitter: @SamBahour