US vice president Mike Pence is in Jerusalem this week, making the usual rounds of a visiting leader. He prayed at the Western Wall and visited Yad Vashemm, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust.
His visit comes a month after the Trump administration declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. That decision, applauded by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and right wing evangelicals in the US, has set back the peace process, The Atlantic’s Emma Green reports:
The administration may have also undermined its own goals in the region. Originally, Pence’s trip was supposed to focus on Christian persecution, according to The Washington Post. But influential religious leaders in Egypt—including Tawadros II, the Coptic patriarch, and Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Al-Azhar mosque—refused to meet with him. Palestinian Christian leaders, including Munib Younan, the former head of the Lutheran World Federation, have spoken out against the vice president’s visit.
In response to his visit, Palestinian ruling party Fatah declared a general strike. While Pence spent his last day in Jerusalem taking part in the expected photo ops, the shuttered storefronts and vacant streets from Jerusalem’s Old City to Hebron in the West Bank along with Gaza City, offered a cold reception.