In a speech to Israel’s Knesset Monday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that the U.S. Embassy in Israel will be moved to Jerusalem before the end of 2019. The announcement was seen by many observers to further cement good relations between the U.S. and Israel.
Pence began the address by acknowledging the historical significance of his visit and doubling down on President Donald Trump’s earlier claims that Jerusalem does in fact belong to Israel.
“It is deeply humbling to stand before this vibrant democracy,” he said. “To have the great honor to address this Knesset, the first Vice President of the United States to be afforded that privilege, here, in Jerusalem: the capital of the state of Israel.”
“America stands with Israel. We stand with Israel because our cause is your cause. Your values are our values. And your fight is our fight,” Pence continued. “We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny.”
“Seventy years ago, the U.S. was proud to be the first to recognize the state of Israel, but as you well know, the work we began on that day was left unfinished … while the U.S. recognized your nation, one administration after another refused to recognize your capital,” he said. “But just last month, President Donald Trump made history … when he announced that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”
The vice president described President Trump as “a leader who has done more to bring [the U.S. and Israel] together than any president” since the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Pence did not discuss the possibility of an interim embassy.
How have Israels responded?
From the moment Pence arrived, Israeli officials have openly expressed joy regarding his arrival. According to the Washington Post, Pence told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was honored to attend “Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu, in response, called Pence’s statement “historic,” noting that “it was the first time a visiting dignitary could utter those three words along with him.” The prime minister also celebrated the recent landmark improvements in American-Israeli relations, saying they have “never been stronger.”
What did Pence say about relations between Israel and Palestine?
In the speech, Pence was firm in his insistence that the U.S. and Israel will continue to seek and encourage peace talks with Palestinian leaders and that he will “strongly urge” Palestinians to seek a two-party resolution:
Under President Trump, the United States of America remains fully committed to achieve a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. … And he made it clear that we’re not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders.
Pence went on to say that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would “create an opportunity to move on in good faith negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” He added that “we are at the dawn of a new era of renewed discussions to achieve a peaceful resolution to a decades-long conflict.”
How have Palestinians and their allies responded?
Although Pence was greeted with a standing ovation, Arab members of the Knesset disrupted his speech in protest as soon as he began speaking. Security officials promptly ejected the jeering members.
As of press time, officials from the Palestinian Authority had not made a statement regarding Pence’s speech.