Israel warmly anticipates US VP Pence’s visit, Palestinians announce a boycott

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during his weekly cabinet meeting, warmly welcomed US vice President Mike Pence ahead of his arrival to Israel tomorrow. Netanyahu declared Pence as a great friend of Israel and Jerusalem, and reiterated his appreciation of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Since Jerusalem is currently under occupation we cannot go there and open our embassy there, but our consulate general is represented at ambassador level. So we have de facto accomplished this but God willing, the day is close when officially, with God’s permission we will open our embassy there,” Tayyip Erdogan said.

During his trip, Vice President Pence is expected to make an official visit the Western Wall in the company of a representative of the State of Israel, thus departing from the past American norm of defining visits to the Western Wall as “private,” and without a formal Israeli representative present. Israeli officials indicated to TV7 that they were highly anticipating the arrival of the American Vice President, who they defined as “a great friend of Israel.” The officials further indicated that they are eager to find out whether the formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will also result in a change in Washington’s position on Israeli construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile in Bethlehem, Palestinians protested the anticipated arrival of the American Vice President, setting fire to placards printed with images of Mike Pence and Trump’s Middle East negotiator Jason Greenblatt. The protest comes at the backdrop of a Palestinian decision to boycott the American Vice President, with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announcing that he was not welcome, and President Mahmoud Abbas would not meet Pence during his visit. In response to the Palestinian decision, the White House released a statement describing the move as “unfortunate.”