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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 12:52 PM | 23-01-2018

Pence to visit Western Wall

US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Tuesday (January 23, 2018) while Palestinians plan a general strike and protests after denouncing his fervently pro-Israel speech the previous day as “messianic,” AFP reported.

The devout Christian’s speech to the Israeli parliament on Monday laden with biblical references was praised by Israelis as perhaps the best they could ever hope for from a US administration, but Palestinians saw it as confirming some of their worst fears.

Pence proudly reaffirmed US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pledged to move the embassy to the disputed city by the end of 2019.

The vice president said “the friendship between our peoples has never been deeper. And I am here to convey a simple message from the heart of the American people: America stands with Israel.”

Pence, whose trip is being boycotted by the Palestinians, will on Tuesday visit one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Western Wall.

The site lies in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the sector the Palestinians want as capital of their future state, and many Israelis are likely to interpret it as Pence further backing their claim over the entire city.

In doing so, Pence will follow in the footsteps of Trump, who became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall in May last year.

Pence will also tour Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

He met Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday morning, saying the White House believes the Jerusalem declaration “will set the table for the opportunity to move forward in meaningful negotiations to achieve a lasting peace and end the decades-long conflict.”

Rivlin responded by saying “inshallah” -- or God willing in Arabic -- after earlier calling Pence a “mensch,” the Yiddish word frequently used by Jews to describe an honourable person.

The Palestinians face a dilemma in how to deal with what they see as a blatantly biased US administration as they seek to salvage hope of a two-state solution.

A top Palestinian official called Pence’s parliament speech “messianic” and a “gift to extremists,” and reiterated their view that the Trump White House is incapable of being an even-handed mediator in peace talks.

Pence has issued no criticism of Israel’s half-century occupation of the West Bank during his visit.

Around a dozen Arab Israeli lawmakers were expelled from the chamber as Pence began his speech after they shouted in protest.

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