JERUSALEM – Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, began his visit to Israel on Monday with a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he stated that it is an honor to be “in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”
Netanyahu told Pence that it was the first time that a foreign dignitary could speak those words with him, and thanked him for the “historic” recognition that President Donald Trump made of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Israeli leader also praised the alliance between the two countries, which in his words “has never been stronger”.
The brief exchange was part of an exceptionally warm welcome extended to Pence in Israel, who praised the Trump government’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in December. However, that position angered the Palestinians, with whom Pence has no plans to meet, and which also caused displeasure among the Arab allies of the United States.
Pence put his right hand over his heart when a guard of honor played the national anthem of the United States.
The White House envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, the US ambassador, David Friedman, and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermenr, attended the ceremony.
Pence spoke briefly with Israeli soldiers before the start of the meeting with Netanyahu.
Pence said he was “grateful to represent Trump” and that the president’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital “will create an opportunity for the advance of negotiations in good faith between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
A small group of Palestinians in the town of Bethlehem, in the West Bank, burned murals with the image of Pence in protest of his visit to Israel.
Earlier, Pence visited Egypt and Jordan, where King Abdullah II warned him that he had to “rebuild trust” because of the decision on Why Is Vice President Pence In Jerusalem.
After the announcement on Jerusalem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not meet with Trump government officials and cancelled the Pence meeting scheduled for mid-December.