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January 22, 2018 8:51 am

VP Pence in Knesset Speech: US Embassy in Israel to Be Moved to Jerusalem by End of 2019

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

US Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Knesset in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ariel Schalit / Pool.

The US Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech to the Israeli parliament on Monday.

President Donald Trump last month recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declared he would move the embassy there.

“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the United States Embassy in Jerusalem — and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year,” Pence announced on Monday.

“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital — and, as such, President Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he continued.

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The speech was briefly disrupted, at the outset, by Israeli-Arab parliament members who held up protest signs in Arabic and English, reading, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine,” and were ejected by ushers.

Pence responded to the fracas by saying with a smile: “It is deeply humbling for me to stand before this vibrant democracy.”

Though shunned by the Palestinians, the Trump administration says it remains committed to helping them and Israel negotiate a peace deal. Those talks have been stalled for almost four years.

Responding to Pence’s speech, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “If the United States wanted to a play a role of a mediator in the peace process it must be a fair mediator and it must abide by (international) resolutions.”

Pence, who visited Egypt and Jordan before traveling to Israel, said that with its policy shift on Jerusalem, “the United States has chosen fact over fiction — and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.”

It was the highest-ranking visit by a US official to the region since Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

Pence, an evangelical Christian, drew parallels between Jewish history dating back to biblical times and the European pilgrims who founded the United States. He was greeted with ovations by Israeli legislators throughout his speech.

Noting that Israel will in May mark 70 years since its founding, Pence switched to Hebrew to recite a Jewish prayer of thanksgiving.

Welcoming Pence to the parliament, Netanyahu said he was the first American vice president to have been accorded the honor.

Israel and the US “are striving together to achieve a true peace, lasting peace, peace with all our neighbors, including the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said.

He reiterated his long-standing demand that the Palestinians recognize “the Jewish people’s right to a nation state in its land, a nation state of its own here in the Land of Israel.”

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