US Jerusalem Decision in Focus as Pence Visits Israel

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is in Israel for talks Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an address to the Knesset as part of his four-day tour of the Middle East.

Senior White House officials said the vice president would be discussing the U.S.-Israeli relationship, ways to counter Iranian influence in the region, and strategy regarding the Syrian conflict.

In the Knesset speech, the officials said Pence would highlight that he was speaking from Jerusalem, in the context of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He also planned to say there is an open window for both Israelis and Palestinians to get to work and make necessary sacrifices toward a long-sought peace agreement.

Trump’s decision brought sharp criticism from Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas who said the United States could no longer play a role in the peace process.

Arab members of parliament have said they will boycott Pence’s speech. Netanyahu criticized that decision during a Cabinet meeting Sunday while calling Pence a “great and true friend of Israel.”

Before traveling to Israel, Pence was in Jordan where King Abdullah expressed concern about the Jerusalem decision and urged the United States to “rebuild trust and confidence” in the search for a two-state solution.

King Abdullah said the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the two-state solution long sought by the international community, and that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Pence said the two countries had agreed to disagree on the Jerusalem issue.

“Friends occasionally have disagreements, and we agreed to disagree on recognizing Jerusalem. We agreed all parties need to come to the table. I hope I impressed on him our earnest desire to restart the peace process,” Pence told reporters after the meeting.

Before Jordan, Pence visited Cairo, where he pledged the U.S. would continue to support Egypt in its battle against terrorism.

Pence also met with U.S. troops in the region before flying to Israel.


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