Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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Mike Pence: US embassy to open in Jerusalem in 2019

Scuffles erupt as Mike Pence tells the Knesset recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital chooses 'fact over fiction'.

Mike Pence and Benjamin Netanyahu

The American embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of next year, US Vice President Mike Pence told Israeli parliamentarians to enthusiastic applause.

Greeted by a standing ovation on Monday inside the Knesset, Pence's speech was in its introductory phase when a scuffle broke out as Palestinian politicians from the Joint Arab List alliance raised posters of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in protest before they were forcibly removed by security.

"America stands with Israel," Pence said, undeterred by the disruption. "We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause. Your values are our values, and your fight is our fight.

"We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong and good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny," Pence said to loud applause. 

In an unprecedented move, the US embassy invited leaders of settler movements in the occupied West Bank to attend Pence's speech in the Knesset - the first ever by a US vice president.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is a staunch supporter of illegal Israeli settlements, and, in the past, he headed an organisation that donated millions of dollars to one in the occupied West Bank. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, met European Union leaders in Brussels on Monday and urged them to quickly recognise Palestine officially as a nation-state.

"We truly consider the European Union as a true partner and friend and, therefore, we call its member states to swiftly recognise the state of Palestine and we confirm that there is no contradiction between recognition and the resumption of negotiations," Abbas, 82, told reporters.

Pence visit to Egypt, Jordan

Pence's visit to the Middle East marks the first by a senior US official after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last month, exacerbating tensions with Palestinians who have protested against the declaration.

The vice president spent a whirlwind 36 hours in Egypt and Jordan, capping a visit that was marked by tense discussions with the two leaders who are opposed to the US decision.

King Abdullah of Jordan urged Pence to stick to the two-state solution, which would see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Pence earlier told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi if the Israelis and Palestinians "accept it" then the US would adopt that solution.

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