Arabs plan protests, general strike for 2nd day of Pence visit

On Monday, Arab protests in Jerusalem were limited to the Knesset, but a general strike and perhaps other forms of dissent are planned for Tuesday.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

American Vice President Mike Pence praised Israel repeatedly in his speech to a full Knesset on Monday, referring clearly to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and noting the extraordinarily strong ties between the two democratic countries. He was interrupted by standing ovations again and again from the Jewish lawmakers and guests in the plenum who have not had a senior US official address the Israeli Parliament since President George W. Bush 10 years ago.

The Palestinian reaction was swift and furious, with senior negotiator Saeb Erekat tweeting, “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.”

Pence had not planned to meet with any Palestinian officials during this visit, as their anger over President Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has not waned since the December declaration.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party called for “a comprehensive strike” on Tuesday – the last day of Pence’s visit to Israel – across “all sectors and institutions, excluding the ministries of health and education,” in protest against the US. Many Arab shopkeepers in eastern Jerusalem usually follow such instructions as well.

Arab Knesset members strictly followed the rejectionist line set by Abbas. Ahead of the vice president’s speech, Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, called Pence a “dangerous person” whose “messianic ideas” damage the entire Mideast, and he referred to Donald Trump as “a political pyromaniac.” As soon as Pence began speaking, the entire Joint List party began heckling him and waving signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine,” but they were quickly rushed out of the chambers by the ushers and banned by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein from returning.