JISS - The Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

Comment by Prof. Efraim Inbar: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the main concern in the region.

JNS 24.1.2018

BY ISRAEL KASNETT

 

While the Trump administration believes the Middle East is “at the dawn of a new era” marked by progress towards “a peaceful resolution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinians are singing a different tune.

On Jan. 23, the White House revealed that there has been no contact between the Palestinians and President Donald Trump’s Middle East negotiating team since the Dec. 6 announcement of U.S. policy changes on Jerusalem.

In line with the ongoing Palestinian boycott of the Trump administration, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas snubbed Vice President Mike Pence during the American leader’s visit to Israel this week and instead flew to Europe, where he implored the European Union to recognize a Palestinian state.

Israeli Member of Knesset Michael Oren (Kulanu), deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, scoffed at the Palestinians’ current feud with the U.S.

“The Palestinians have zero to complain about. They spent eight years with the most pro-Palestinian president ever,” Oren told JNS, referring to Barack Obama. “But they spat in his eye and went to U.N. agencies like UNESCO. They wasted that period and they are wasting it now.”

Speaking at Israel’s parliament on Jan. 22, Pence expressed his appreciation for “the great honor to address this Knesset, the first vice president of the United States to be afforded that privilege here in Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Israel.”

Pence drew loud applause and standing ovations from Israeli legislators—with the exception of Arab lawmakers, who staged a protest at the beginning of the speech and were promptly escorted out of the plenum by Knesset ushers. Even before Pence arrived in Israel, MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List party, called Pence a “dangerous man with a messianic vision.”

Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat similarly tweeted, “The messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists & has proven that the US Administration is part of the problem rather than the solution.”

Amid the anger of Palestinian and Arab leaders, Prof. Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the main concern in the region.

“The U.S. administration, like the Israeli government and moderate Arab countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, all see Iranian encroachment and the regime’s effort to achieve regional hegemony as the main problem,” he told JNS. “Jordan pays lip service to the Palestinian cause, but what they are doing is not what they are saying.”

 

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