Crews prepare for the speakers at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, U.S., March 6, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)
WASHINGTON – A comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will require compromise from both sides, leading voices from the Trump administration told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this week.
Speaking at the organization’s annual conference in Washington, US Vice President Mike Pence said administration officials were working with determination to prepare Trump’s peace plan.
“As we gather here, our team – Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and our great ambassador [David Friedman] – are hard at work crafting our administration’s vision for peace,” Pence said. “And while any peace will undoubtedly require compromise, know this: The United States of America will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel.”
He said the Trump administration still considers Middle East peace a high priority, despite the struggle ahead, and would support a two-state solution if both sides agree to it.
“Under President Trump, the United States remains fully committed to achieve a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Pence said. “In announcing his decision on Jerusalem, the president also called, in his words, ‘on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.’ And he made it clear that we were not taking any position on final-status issues, or specific boundaries, or the resolution of contested borders. And as the president reaffirmed, if both sides agree, the United States of America will support a two-state solution.”
US Vice President Mike Pence Speaks at the annual conference of AIPAC (REUTERS)
Israeli officials declined again on Monday to expressly endorse a two-state solution that doesn’t include fundamental security guarantees for the Jewish state, such as a permanent military presence in the Jordan Valley.
And yet a true peace also requires “truth-telling,” Pence said, touting President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That was a common theme in speeches from US leaders, including Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Friedman.
Friedman characterized Trump as the best friend Israel has “ever had” in the White House. He said the work being put into a comprehensive US plan that will jump start talks.
“We’re hard at work, working on a plan... a real plan for peace,” he told the crowd. “And we’re not giving up.”
But “saying that you are pro-Israel and propeace is disingenuous,” he continued, in a reference to the motto of J Street, a competing lobby to AIPAC that is focused on achieving a two-state solution and is largely opposed to Trump administration policies. “Using that phrase suggests Israel is not pro-peace. Saying ‘pro-Israel’ and ‘pro-peace’ is a redundancy. If you support Israel you support peace, and it is dangerous to suggest otherwise.”
Haley received the greatest reception of all. The United Nations discourages peace between Israelis and Palestinians, she charged in her remarks, by perpetuating an “illusion” that the existence of the Jewish state has caused the region’s conflicts.
Israel “is not going away,” she stated, adding the realization of that at the UN was the key to ending Israel’s isolation there.
Haley’s tenure so far as UN ambassador has been dominated by action on Israel issues. She has aggressively fought for Israel to be treated, in her words, “like every other nation” in international forums.
“Like most Americans, I knew what the capital of Israel was,” she said. “To be more clear, I knew that Jerusalem was, is, and will always be the capital of Israel.”
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That’s a fact,” Haley continued. “And President Trump had the courage to recognize that fact when others would not.
“Sometime in the future, the day will come when the whole world recognizes that fact,” she said.
Haley said she hopes to attend the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem scheduled for May, around the time of Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations.
She answered criticism that the Trump administration has shown favoritism toward Israel by saying favoritism toward allies is acceptable. “Nothing wrong with showing favoritism toward an ally,” she said. “But this is not about favoritism.”