Vastavam web: Vice President Mike Pence kicked off his visit to Israel today with a morning meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he said it was an honor “to be in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.” Netanyahu thanked Pence for President Donald Trump’s “historic” recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and lauded the American-Israeli alliance, which he said has “never been stronger.”Pence placed his right hand over his heart as an honor guard greeted him with the American national anthem. White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador David Friedman and the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, joined the ceremony and Pence chatted briefly with Israeli soldiers before beginning his meeting with Netanyahu.
The vice president visited Egypt and Jordan prior to his arrival in Israel and is set to deliver a speech to the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, later in the day.After the Jerusalem announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not meet Trump administration officials and called off a meeting with Pence that had been scheduled for mid-December. Nabil Abu Rdeneh, an Abbas adviser, reiterated that the United States “is no longer acceptable as a mediator” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu called Pence “a great friend of Israel” and said there was “no alternative for American leadership” in the peace process. “Whoever is not ready to talk with the Americans about peace does not want peace,” he said at a meeting of ambassadors in Jerusalem.The Knesset, which is accustomed to such high profile visits, has added a new layer of security and other then the speaker and other dignitaries, lawmakers will not have direct access to Pence.