VP Mike Pence: US embassy to move to Jerusalem in 2019

Lynette Rowe
January 23, 2018

Beyond refusing to meet Pence, Abbas has said the United States can no longer serve as mediator in Middle East peace talks and the Palestinians were planning a general strike on Tuesday to protest Trump's declaration.

Trump is "convinced that by recognizing Israel's capital of Jerusalem, that we would create that opportunity to move on in good-faith negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority", Pence told reporters.

In Israel, the main Arab party in the Israeli parliament says it will boycott his speech, though it is not clear whether they will walk out on Pence in protest or skip the session altogether.

Diplomats and officials in Brussels say recognition for Palestine is not on the cards on Monday - the European Union leaves recognition in the hands of individual members - and the best Mr Abbas can hope for is progress towards an "association agreement" with the bloc.

Why is the status of Jerusalem so controversial?

"He would need to change his thoughts and behavior. and recognize the rights of Arab Palestinian Christians who are the people of this land, to support their rights to have their independence, their freedom and east Jerusalem as our capital", said Salman, a Roman Catholic.

Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem broke with worldwide consensus on the best way forward in Middle East peace moves, and his freeze on some funding to the Palestinians has angered many in the region and sparked financial uncertainty at the United Nations agency working in the territories. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in 1967 in a move not internationally recognised, regards all of the city as its "eternal and indivisible capital". These are considered illegal under worldwide law, although Israel disputes this.

She played down the timing of the vice president's visit to Israel when Abbas was in Brussels, saying it was a coincidence.

Pence is due to give remarks in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, later Monday. "And Israel has no greater friend than the United States of America", he said.

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Mike Pence said today that the U.S. would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem next year - earlier than had been expected. He said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had yet to sign off on the safety plan for the new facility but would do so in coming weeks.

That was because the state department still needed to acquire a site, commission architects and gain planning approval, and then build the compound, he explained. Now, the administration seems set to massively accelerate plans to relocate the embassy, moving up the date from an unstated time in the distant future to next year.

What else did Mr Pence say?

Palestinians leaders boycotted Pence's visit amid continued anger at the U.S. decision last month to relocate the embassy and recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In an expression of that snub, Abbas overlapped with Pence in Jordan from Saturday evening to midday Sunday, when the Palestinian leader flew to Brussels for a meeting with European Union foreign ministers, where he urged EU member states to recognize a state of Palestine and step up involvement in mediation. Jerusalem should be shared by Christians, Muslims and Jews, he said, adding that a peace deal would enhance Israel's security.

US Vice President Mike Pence arrived at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, saying that it was an honor "to be in Israel's capital, Jerusalem".

How did Palestinians react to the speech?

"The messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists and has proven that the US Administration is part of the problem rather than the solution", he said in a Tweet. It had proven that the U.S. was "part of the problem rather than the solution", he added.

Abbas made the request during a press briefing with the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini. "Therefore, we call on its member states to swiftly recognise the state of Palestine, and we confirm that there is no contradiction between recognition and a resumption of negotiations".

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