It is always appropriate for senior U.S. officials to visit Israel, to meet with its leaders, address the Knesset and visit its most significant sites. Vice President Mike Pence will continue this long and important tradition when he touches down in Israel.
But as the Trump administration ruins prospects for peace and leads a ham-fisted foreign policy, we can no longer just offer the customary praise to the vice president for continuing this bipartisan custom.
Pence’s trip originally was scheduled as a pre-Christmas visit, and was principally framed as an opportunity for him to show solidarity with Israel but also with the minority Christians in the region. He was supposed to visit Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, and to meet with Christian, Coptic and Palestinian leaders.
However, the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without simultaneous efforts to advance the peace process, threw cold water on those plans, as key figures said they would refuse to meet with him. It was an unprecedented diplomatic rebuke.
Perhaps, this time, instead of visiting churches and trying to meet Christian and Palestinian leaders who don’t want to see him, the vice president will seek progress on putting an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a peace plan his boss has been talking about for the past two years – “the deal of the century” as Trump has called it – but has never meaningfully elaborated on or delivered.