Vice President Mike Pence referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the US will open its embassy there by the end of 2019 — escalating the controversial move’s timeline.
“The United States has chosen fact over fiction — and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace,” Pence said during an address to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on Monday.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital … in the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — and the Embassy will open by the end of next year, ” he said in the speech that sparked outbursts by Israeli Arab members of the Knesset.
As Pence spoke, they heckled him and unfurled signs saying, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.”
They were quickly escorted from the floor.
Members of the main Arab party said earlier they would boycott Pence’s appearance, referring to him as a “dangerous racist.”
Trump’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital and move the embassy ramped up tensions in the region and was condemned by 128 counties — including Britain, France and Germany — in a United Nations resolution.
At the time, most US officials thought it would take a few years to come up with plans to move the embassy.
The president’s action upended years of US policy that refrained from declaring Jerusalem the capital as part of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, who also claim the city as their capital.
Pence shrugged off the fuss in the Knesset and expressed America’s unbreakable bond with Israel.
“I am here to convey one simple message. America stands with Israel. We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight,”
Pence said. “We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, good over evil, and liberty over tyranny.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Pence upon his arrival in Israel following stops in Egypt and Jordan.
“This is the first time that I stand here where both leaders can say those three words — ‘Israel’s capital Jerusalem,’” he said.
Pence also said the US would support a two-state solution, but only if both sides agree.
Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas spoke with European Union leaders at their headquarters in Brussels to enlist their support to recognize a state of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its capital.
EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said the organization backs Abbas.
“I want to reassure President Abbas of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states,” she said.
With Post Wires