Pence postpones trip to Mideast, citing vote on tax bill

21 December, 2017, 01:01 | Author: Brian Mcdaniel
  • Pence postpones trip to Mideast, citing vote on tax bill

US Vice President Mike Pence has delayed a visit to the Middle East for a second time, the White House said Monday, to focus on the tax vote on Capitol Hill.

Originally, Pence had planned to leave Saturday for a almost week-long trip that included meetings with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Sissi, grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque and the pope of the Egyptian Coptic Church, who leads the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. Therefore, to get the most out of the trip, the Vice President will now be traveling in mid-January.

The delay comes at a time the United States is facing widespread backlash over Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving the country's embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

Pence was originally scheduled to depart over the last weekend, but the trip was delayed until this week so that he could preside over the upcoming Senate vote on tax code changes.

The itinerary had already seen several cancellations following Washington's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but the White House attributed the rescheduling for domestic reasons. However, Pence's office confirmed on Monday that his visit would be pushed back again until January 2018, Politico reported. His decision came amid an uproar in the Middle East over the Trump administration's decision to designate Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

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Palestinian officials have pressured local church leaders to reject Pence's visit and follow the example of the Egyptian Coptic Church whose pope has refused to meet the USA vice president due to the decision.

"There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine", Abbas' diplomatic adviser, Majdi al-Khaldi, said three days ago. In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which was originally a scheduled stop on Pence's tour, religious leaders turned off the city's Christmas tree lights earlier to protest the White House announcement. The draft resolution also reiterated the council's view that no country should establish an embassy in Jerusalem and that Jerusalem's status was an issue to be resolved by Israel and the Palestinians, who want eastern Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Following the cancellation of the visit to the center of Egypt's Christian faith, the vice president's press secretary, Alyssa Farah, has dropped any mention of faith outreach, referring only to meetings with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

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