Addressing a special session of the Knesset, he said ”In the weeks ahead our administration will advance its plan to open the embassy in Jerusalem, and that embassy will open before the end of next year.”
”Jerusalem is Israel’s capital – and, as such, President [Donald] Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said in his speech.
In the speech peppered with Biblical references, Holocaust imagery, fallen Israeli soldiers including Yoni Netanyahu, brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and a traditional Jewish blessing for thanksgiving uttered in halting Hebrew, Pence delivered a message of religious faith and the confluence of American and Israeli values as a foundation for the US – Israel relationship “as allies and cherished friends.”
“All who cherish freedom and seek a brighter future should cast their eyes here to this place and marvel what they behold,” Pence said.
As expected, the beginning of Pence’s speech was interrupted by members of the Joint List party, who were escorted from the Knesset plenum after brandishing signs criticising Trump’s policy vis-à-vis Jerusalem. But the protest did little to derail an address that outlined a US policy that closely aligns with Israel’s security and international interests. He praised Israeli leaders for their willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians, and called on the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table, saying ”peace can only come through dialogue.”
He said President Trump is “fully committed to achieving a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” adding that “if both sides agree, the United States will support a two-state solution.”
”We recognize peace will require compromise,” he told the Knesset Plenum, ”but you can be confident the United States will never compromise the safety and security of the State of Israel. Any peace agreement must guarantee Israel`s ability to defend itself by itself.”
“There are those who believe the world can’t change… but my friends, President Trump doesn’t believe it, I don’t believe it, and neither do you. I stand here today in a city whose very name means peace,” said Pence.
At the same time, Pence took a veiled dig at former US President Barack Obama, referring to “radical Islamic terrorism” (a phrase that Obama administration officials strenuously avoided) before describing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, as “ill conceived” and a “disaster” that President Trump would no longer certify.
“The United States will never compromise the safety or security of the State of Israel… The Iran nuclear deal merely delays the day (that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons). and added that any peace deal with third parties would ensure Israel’s ability “to defend itself, by itself.
“I make a solemn promise to the people of Israel and the Middle East: The United States will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Pence said.
TPS contributed to this report.