Pence arrives in Israel on third leg of Middle East trip

US Vice President Mike Pence. Image credit: Time Magazine

–TMC Desk

Jerusalem, Jan 22: US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Israel on Sunday evening for a three-day visit, the third stop in his delayed trip to the Middle East.

Pence landed in the Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv, where he was welcomed by Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Xinhua news agency reported.

Pence’s schedule only includes meetings with Israeli Jewish leaders after Palestinian leaders said they will boycott the visit due to the recent US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Pence will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and with President Reuven Rivlin on the following day.

Also on Monday, Pence will address the Knesset (parliament) plenum, a session that all lawmakers with the Arab-Jewish Joint List, Israel’s third largest party, said they will boycott.

On Tuesday, Pence is scheduled to visit the Western Wall in East Jerusalem, a Jewish holy site on the foot of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to both Muslims and Jews and a focal point of the unrest in East Jerusalem.

The Vice President has met Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi Saturday and held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II earlier on Sunday, before arriving in Israel.

Pence arrived in the region amidst heightened tensions in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s statement on December 6.

Changing a long-held US policy, Trump said he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that the US will relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

A White House official said the issue of Jerusalem is expected to come up during the meetings. “We are prepared for that topic,” he was quoted as saying by CNN.

“The main theme for the vice president is going to be looking forward,” the official said. “And how can all of the parties work together at this juncture and try to find out the best path forward for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it shortly after, claiming it as part of its indivisible capital. The move, however, has never been recognized internationally.


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