US Vice President Mike Pence delayed an upcoming trip to the Middle East in order to attend a Congress session where his tie-breaking vote could be needed over a tax legislation issue.
Political sources in Tel Aviv said that the postponement has nothing to do with the Palestinians’ boycott of the trip in protest against Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Pence will now leave some time on Tuesday on a trip that will begin with a visit to Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, a senior White House official said.
He had initially planned to leave late on Saturday.
As vice president, Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote in the US Senate, and with a close vote expected along party lines on the tax legislation, it was decided to keep him in the country just in case. Republican Senator John McCain, who is fighting brain cancer, was in hospital on Wednesday.
Pence will meet on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and deliver an address to the Knesset and later dine with Netanyahu.
White House officials said Pence will end his visit to Israel on Friday by meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said that during the trip, Pence would reaffirm the US commitment to US allies in the Middle East and to working together with them in the fight against extremist militants.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Pence in protest of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The status of Jerusalem has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Trump's announcement last week was widely perceived as taking the side of Israel.
The decision upended decades of US foreign policy and countered an international consensus that Jerusalem's status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.