How important is Pence's visit to Israel?

Ssshh! The US Vice President's visit doesn’t really matter...

January 23, 2018 03:09
2 minute read.
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jersualem

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS/ARIEL SCHALIT/POOL)

Three weeks ago, comedian Jerry Seinfeld came to Israel and did a comedy show about nothing, reminiscent of his television show about nothing, but expressed warmth for Israel and made the audience feel good about themselves.

The same could be said about the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence and his speech at the Knesset. He made nearly all of the Jewish MKs feel very good about themselves and their country, but didn’t really say anything new or earthshaking.

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It is important to put his visit in proportion.

Pence is not actually in charge of anything. He only casts a vote in the Senate if there is a tie. The clean bill of health US President Donald Trump recently received made Pence’s most important role – succeeding the president – less of a potential reality.

True, Pence has had and continues to have a major influence on Trump. But while Trump’s visit to Israel was extremely important, Pence’s trip to Jerusalem is – like his position – ceremonial.

His speech to the Knesset also was not that important. He sounded like a preacher, and as nice as it sounded to Israeli ears, he was preaching to the converted.

Pence saying nice things about Israel is like an attack dog biting a man or the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl. It has become so expected after happening so many times that only if the opposite happens is it actually interesting.

What he said about the US Embassy opening in Jerusalem by the end of next year was already known for a few days. The same is true of the Trump administration not being willing to recertify the Iran deal.

Unlike what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his speech, this was not the first speech by a US vice president at the Knesset. Pence’s predecessor, Joe Biden, delivered a lengthy, pro-Israel speech at a Knesset ceremony that was part of the funeral procession for the late prime minister Ariel Sharon.

The demonstration of Arab MKs against Pence was also far from unprecedented. Arab MKs have heckled visiting foreign dignitaries and been removed from the plenum for their lack of decorum, as have right-wing Knesset members.
Arab Israeli lawmakers are escorted out of Israeli parliament during Vice President Mike Pence's speech (Reuters)

The international media exaggerated both the protest and its handling by Knesset ushers, falsely comparing the incident to very different situations in their own countries.

But local media in Israel exaggerated the visit, too. Pence came Sunday and will leave Tuesday – and then Israelis will get back to their daily challenges, feeling a little better about themselves.

Like after even the greatest show, life goes on, yada, yada, yada...

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