White House on Abbas' Refusal to Meet Pence: Palestinians Are Walking Away Again From Dialogue

The Palestinians' refusal to meet Vice President Mike Pence means they are distancing themselves from an option to discuss the future of the region, Washington says

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office on December 7, 2017.
Bloomberg

WASHINGTON – The White House has criticized the Palestinian Authority's refusal to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his upcoming trip to the region.

In a statement released Sunday, Pence's spokeswoman said that by refusing to meet with the U.S. leader, the PA is turning its back on dialogue about the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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"It's unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region, but the administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan," the statement said.

"The President has asked Vice President Pence to go to the region to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations," said the statement.  

Despite the Palestinian reluctance to convene with Pence, "The Vice President very much looks forward to traveling to the region and to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President el-Sisi," the statement added.  

On Thursday, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said that Pence was "unwelcome" in Palestine.  

“In the name of Fatah I say that we will not welcome Trump’s deputy in the Palestinian Territories. He asked to meet (Abbas) on the 19th of this month in Bethlehem, such a meeting will not take place,” Jibril Rajoub he stated.

Pence is expected to visit the region later this month. He is set to travel to Israel and to the West Bank city of Bethlehem. It was not clear what Rajoub's remarks meant for the West Bank portion of Pence's trip, but Politico reported Thursday that Pence “still intends to meet with Abbas and Palestinian leaders and thinks any decision to pull out of the meeting would be counterproductive,” a White House official was quoted as saying.

The Palestinian reluctance to communicate with administration officials comes on the heels of last week's declaration by U.S. President Donald Trump that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

The Palestinians wish to see a Palestinian state established with East Jerusalem as its capital, and Abbas said in the wake of Trump's monumental announcement that by making such a move the U.S. has proved itself unfit to serve as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.