Pence’s Knesset speech: Curb your enthusiasm
Analysis: The current US administration isn’t known for delivering on its commitments or for having a clear policy, especially in the international arena; Israel can rest assured, however, that as long as Mike Pence is at the White House—with or without Donald Trump—Washington’s unshakable support is guaranteed.
Every sentence Pence said stressed his commitment to the security and prosperity of the Jewish state in the Middle East. I’m using the term “Jewish state” because the US vice president’s speech was more of an ideological-religious-emotional speech than a political statement. After listening to it, I am convinced—and I believe we can all be convinced—that as long as Michael Pence remains at the White House, with or without Donald Trump, Washington’s unshakable support for us is guaranteed.
This is a significant fact, first of all, in light of the possibility that Trump won’t complete his term as president for one reason or another. It’s unlikely, but it’s an option we must take into account.
A second reason is that Pence has a lot of influence on President Trump, as well as a big and committed electorate among evangelical Christians in the United States. Michael Pence is not just a politician who enjoys their support; he’s one of the leaders of this community, which has political strength and an effect on the White House—not just in the era of a conservative president like Trump, but also during the era of Barack Obama and the Democrats.
It’s reasonable to assume, therefore, that Pence’s current visit to the Middle East is aimed at appealing to his voters, just like it is aimed at qualifying him to handle America’s foreign affairs.
It isn’t hard to see that the US vice president’s visit to the region, and mainly to Israel, serves both sides very well. Pence is securing his status among his voters, as well as his status as a statesman handling foreign affairs. Israel is gaining a show of support for the Jewish people and the Zionist idea from the most important world power.
This declaration of support will likely have practical implications in the national security area and in the diplomatic support Israel will receive. The US vice president’s visit to the Middle East focused on two diplomatic-security issues: The first is resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the second is the Iranian threat to Middle East peace and stability.
Pence did one thing concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his Knesset speech, as well as in his talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah, he left the door open for negotiations. That may seem obvious, but in light of the Palestinian boycotts and Mahmoud Abbas’ “May your house come to ruin” following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and in light of the Jordanian king’s protest, Pence’s declaration at the Knesset serves as proof that the US still intends to keep looking for a creative process to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As for Iran, Pence outlined—for the first time, in fact—a comprehensive policy aimed at curbing Iran’s aspirations to secure a religious and strategic hegemony in the Middle East and the ayatollahs’ ambitions to destroy the State of Israel. He specified each and every one of the components of the American policy and strategy to curb Iran, starting from improving the nuclear agreement to urging the Iranian people to rise up against the oppressing religious regime.
We should curb our enthusiasm, however. The current US administration isn’t known for delivering on its commitments or for having a clear policy, especially in the international arena. But we are now more or less aware of Washington’s current policy on Iran, and we can be certain that as far as Pence is concerned, this is the policy and strategy the Americans will adopt in the future too.
And finally, Pence seemed genuinely excited as he spoke about the Jewish people’s fate and future. His body language was as important as the words he said.