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Pence: U.S. Embassy Will Open In Jerusalem Before End Of 2019

Jan 22, 2018
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's go to the Middle East now, where Vice President Mike Pence spoke today at the Israeli Knesset, where he praised a recent decision by President Trump about Jerusalem.

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VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction. And fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.

MARTIN: Pence has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although Palestinian officials have refused to meet with him to protest the administration's decision about Jerusalem. With us now NPR political correspondent Tamara Keith, she is traveling with Vice President Pence. Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: What was the vice president's reception like? It sounds like he wasn't exactly welcomed by everyone during his appearance.

KEITH: Not by absolutely everyone. I will say that he was overwhelmingly supported and got numerous standing ovations throughout his remarks. However, right at the beginning of his remarks, there was a protest where some Arab lawmakers stood up with signs saying, Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. They then left the hall under a strong escort, you could say.

MARTIN: The vice president also made a little bit of news by getting specific about the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. What can you tell us?

KEITH: Right. So President Trump had said that he was going to begin the steps to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said that it could take something like three years. Well, today - and this was another one of those standing ovations - Pence announced that the embassy will open in Jerusalem before the end of 2019. That is a big shift. That's an acceleration, if you will. And was - got round applause in the room that lasted a very long time.

MARTIN: Anything else of note in that address at the Knesset?

KEITH: Yeah. So I would say that, then, Pence moved on to the other part of the way the administration sees this deal - is we move the embassy, and then we still want you guys to work toward peace with the Palestinians. And the applause as Pence delivered some of those lines was significantly more polite than it was exuberant. And in particular, talking about the idea of a two-state solution - not everyone applauded in a big way when he talked about that.

MARTIN: For that. You can imagine, yeah. But what does it mean that the vice president is there in this moment, trying to move the needle on negotiations, but the Palestinians won't even engage in the conversation right now?

KEITH: Yeah. I mean, it's a fascinating thing where, initially, Vice President Pence had planned this trip around Christmastime, and he was supposed to meet with Palestinians. And then after the president's decision on the embassy, those meetings were canceled. Pence, through back channels, according to people who have knowledge of it, has tried to set up those meetings. He's asked the Egyptian president and the king of Jordan to ask the Palestinians to talk to him to begin talks again - and, you know, crickets on the other end there.

MARTIN: Where does the vice president go from here after he's done with his trip to Israel?

KEITH: He heads back to the U.S. and - to either a government that's functioning and running or a government that's shut down, which is something that has sort of been a presence throughout his trip - answering questions from us about the government shutdown.

MARTIN: NPR's Tamara Keith traveling with Vice President Pence in Jerusalem today. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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