US Vice President Mikr Pence to visit Israel on Wednesday

JERUSALEM —US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Israel during a trip to the Middle East this week amid reports he will also spend time at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Pence delayed his visit by two days because of the Senate vote to pass the Republican tax bill. Israel Hayom reports today that Pence, who is arriving in Israel on Wednesday, is expected to make an official visit to the Western Wall in the company of a representative of the State of Israel, departing from past US diplomatic protocol of defining visits to the Western Wall as “private”.

According to same report, Israeli political officials are also waiting to find out whether the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will result in a change in US position on Israeli construction in the Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on Saturday called for a massive demonstration this week to protest against Pence’s Jerusalem visit. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’s spokesperson, said that Pence’s visit to the Western Wall would violate international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation and “proves once again that this American administration is completely out of the peace process”.

Last Friday White House officials briefed Israeli media about the Vice President’s visit and said: “We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the President said [in his speech last week on Jerusalem], the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement.”

A formal reception will be held for Pence in the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday. Pence will then address the Knesset and dine with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Friday, he will be hosted at the President’s Residence and will visit the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem.

Pence, an evangelical Christian, will not meet with Palestinian Christians or with officials from the Coptic Christian church, who have decided not to meet him in response to the the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The UN Security Council will today discuss an Egyptian-drafted resolution that seeks to revoke the US Jerusalem announcement. The US is expected to veto the resolution which does not explicitly cite the US or President Donald Trump.

In related news, Abdel Hamid Hakim, the Director of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, told the US-based Aalhurra TV network that Muslims must recognise the fact that Jerusalem is also holy to Jews.

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