In an address to the Israeli parliament on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence set a firm timeline on when the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, putting concrete plans behind President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. now officially recognized the city as Israel’s true capital.
“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and that the United States embassy will open before the end of next year,” Pence said. “By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction – and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.”
Trump’s announcement last year that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there proved to be one of the most shocking and tradition-defying moves of his young presidency. While Congress made the declaration in the mid-1990s, three consecutive presidents have signed waiver after waiver, kicking the can down the road in the interests of arbitrating a peace plan between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. While Israel has assumed full control over Jerusalem since 1967, the Palestinians still lay claim to the East side of the ancient city. Trump said in his speech that his administration was not taking sides in that dispute but rather acknowledging the truth of the situation as it was.
In his speech Monday, Pence gave the president credit for improving relations between the U.S. and Israel. “The alliance between our two countries has never been stronger, and the friendship between our peoples has never been deeper,” he said. “And I am here to convey a simple message from the hearts of the American people: America stands with Israel.”
While Pence received a warm welcome from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Arab-Israelis in the parliament announced that they would boycott the speech. Speaking for the caucus, Ayman Odeh said Saturday that the Trump administration would not facilitate peace between the Palestinians and Israel.
“In response to voices that are against our decision, we will not be silent about the speech made by a dangerous racist whose whole reason for being here is in order to damage any chance of peace,” Odeh wrote on Twitter.
This is similar to the rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Palestinian leaders like Mahmoud Abbas, but it only brings to mind the question: What chance of peace are they talking about? How many years must pass without resolution before we admit that these fantasies of a two-state solution are just that? Now, at least, we have an administration willing to speak the truth about the official U.S. position. If that brings us closer to peace, so be it. But it cannot bring us further away, because peace, until now, has been nothing but a mirage.