Abbas asks European Union to recognise Palestinian statehood

Tuesday, 23 Jan, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence has kicked off a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

In comments earlier Monday at the Prime Minister's office, Pence had said that the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital did not mean the USA was abandoning the peace process.

A group of Arab lawmakers voiced their displeasure at the administration's perceived pro-Israel bias by raising banners reading "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine" and heckling Pence at the beginning of his address, before being forcibly removed from the plenum.

In Jordan, King Abdullah pressed Pence on backing the two-state solution and chided the administration for its recognition of Jerusalem, which broke years of USA policy.

After the Jerusalem announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not meet Trump administration officials and called off a meeting with Pence that had been scheduled for mid-December.

Palestinian Christians say U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's brand of evangelical Christianity, with its fervent embrace of modern-day Israel as fulfilment of biblical prophecy, lacks their faith's compassion and justice, including for those who have endured half a century of Israeli occupation. Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, and many Palestinians consider the area to be the future capital of a Palestinian state.

As Pence spoke, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas arrived to meet European Union foreign ministers in Brussels, urging them to "swiftly" recognize the state of Palestine.

"The leadership that President Trump has provided, the pressure that we placed on North Korea is exactly the reason that the Kim regime is re-engaging", Pence said. He is expected to encourage increased mediation from European Union countries in addition to recognition of a Palestinian state along pre-1967 war lines.

The Palestinians were planning a general strike on Tuesday to protest Trump's declaration. The EU already has one with Israel.

Jack Guez  AFP via Getty Images The U.S. Embassy building in Tel Aviv Israel on Jan. 20 2017
Jack Guez AFP via Getty Images The U.S. Embassy building in Tel Aviv Israel on Jan. 20 2017

Before arriving in Israel, Pence held meetings with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan and USA officials travelling with him said that he had sought to encourage them to pressure the Palestinians to return to peace talks.

He has been embraced by so-called Christian Zionists who believe the establishment of the state of Israel is proof of God keeping his promises and a step toward the second coming of Christ.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Pence's speech on Monday "has proven that the USA administration is part of the problem rather than the solution".

Pence's visit coincided with a dispute between the Foreign Press Association in Israel and the Israeli government after Israeli demands to strip-search a Finnish journalist covering the start of Pence's visit.

The Vice President also explicitly stated that the USA would "never allow" the Tehran regime to acquire nuclear weapons, highlighting the Trump administration's differing approach to the rogue nation as compared to the previous administration.

Israel's government regards Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the country, although that is not recognized internationally.

Mr Pence's visit is the final leg of a trip that has included talks in Egypt and Jordan.

In protest of Pence's arrival in Israel, several Palestinian protesters burned a photo of the vice president Sunday night at a small demonstration in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. In the West Bank city of Nablus, dozens of Palestinians chanted against Trump and stepped on pictures of Pence in a sign of anger.