Due to a potential tie-breaking vote on tax reform, US Vice President Mike Pence was forced to delay his visit to Israel, a move which the Palestinians have implied was in response to their cancellation of meetings with Pence.
By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News
The banner headline on the pro-Palestinian news site Middle East Eye reads, “US Vice President postpones trip to Israel, Palestine after Palestinians refuse to meet him.” In point of fact, while VP Mike Pence has delayed his Middle East trip by a “couple of days,” the decision has nothing to do with the Palestinians and everything to do with the US Tax Reform Plan.
While the Vice President was due to visit Israel this Sunday and Monday, including an address in the Knesset, his ability to break a potential tie in a Senate vote on the tax bill appears to have required the VP to postpone this visit to Tuesday or Wednesday. Pence’s role as a tie-breaker became much more critical after Tuesday’s victory by Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, capturing a Republican Senate seat and reducing the Republican majority from 52-48 to 51-49.
Pence’s visit to Israel will be part of a wider regional trip that will take him to Egypt and was supposed to take him to the Palestinian Authority as well. Shortly after President Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital the Palestinians announced that they would not meet the Vice President in protest.
According to the Director of Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus, the Palestinian Authority has been in “full incitement mode” from the moment the speech ended. Marcus told World Israel News (WIN), “The PA is saying that the US and its President will end up in the dust bin of history. Jerusalem is ours and will remain ours so from their perspective it’s invalid and needs a response. They called for a day of rage and violence and said that everyone must rise up against this.” In effect, Marcus told WIN, “They are calling for Muslims to attack American interests anywhere in the world.”
Did US permit Palestinians to take ‘upper hand’?
According to Marcus, the US made a big mistake. He told WIN, “The US allowed the Palestinian Authority to take the lead and get the upper hand. The PA announced they won’t meet with Pence. It should have been the opposite. The United States should have announced we are not meeting with any Palestinian Authority leaders if they are inciting to violence and not behaving like a peace partner.”
“The tragedy is that the US has tolerated this kind of incitement to violence and terror for many years and there have never been international political repercussions. The United States should today announce that no PA leader will get a visa to travel to the United States or meet any US officials until they stop their incitement. They must be made to understand they cannot threaten violence with impunity,” Marcus said.
Ahead of his visit, Pence told the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) he was “humbled” by the invitation to speak to the Knesset. He told CBN he will be bringing “a strong message so that if the world knows nothing else, it should know that under President Donald Trump, America stands with Israel.” Pence also said that he will also “reaffirm the US commitment to peace in the region.”
In addition to his Knesset speech, Pence is expected to take part in a Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall.
Palestinian officials cancelled a meeting with Pence in the West Bank shortly after the speech by President Donald Trump last week to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Palestinians working to make Pence feel unwelcome
Even after announcing they would not meet Pence, the Palestinian Authority continues working behind the scenes to guarantee that the Vice President feels as unwelcome as possible. Palestinian officials are pressuring local church leaders to boycott Pence end are even encouraging the Egyptian Coptic Church to refuse to meet with the US vice president when he travels to Egypt upon concluding his visit to Israel.
In Jerusalem, the International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) has an entirely different message. ICEJ Vice President David Parsons told WIN, “We think this is a new season for Jerusalem and we are asking other nations to follow the lead of the American administration. I think a lot of countries have been waiting for America to do this and watched as Congress, in 1995 passed a law to move the embassy and waited for an American president to finally follow through on their promises.”
The ICEJ is now actively campaigning for other countries to recognize Jerusalem and move their embassies. Parsons old WIN, “We’ve already had success with the Czech Republic. We lobbied their parliament for several years on this issue and in October they passed a resolution calling for their president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital. That country is now actively calling on other European leaders to do the same.”
“It’s long overdue. For 70 years there has been this ugly diplomatic slighting of Jerusalem,” said Parsons. “It’s such an important city and there is no longer any reason to wait for Palestinians to come to the peace table. How long are we going to wait on this. Moving the embassy is the right decision and we are very excited and believe that other nations are going to follow suit,” Parsons said.
According to Parsons the Philippines, several French speaking African countries, and Latin American countries led by Guatemala are likely to be next in line to recognize Jerusalem and move their embassies. Parsons said that not only is Pence welcome, “We have extended an invitation for him to light a Chanukah candle at the Christian Embassy when he is here.”