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Report: Pence Middle East Visit Postponed over US-Israeli Dispute

Report: Pence Middle East Visit Postponed over US-Israeli Dispute

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017 - 12:00
US Vice President Mike Pence. (Reuters)

Disagreements may have led to “a light diplomatic crisis” between the US administration and the Israeli government over the postponement of US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Middle East, political sources revealed.

He was set to start his trip this week, but it was delayed to January.

Pence requested to start his visit in Israel by holding a press conference in front of the Western Wall (Buraq Wall) in occupied East Jerusalem, sources said.

However, Chief rabbi of the Jewish community Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is religiously responsible for the area, objected to Pence’s request.

He told the Americans that holding a press conference in this place "would let the anger of all Palestinians be centered on that wall, and this is not in the interest of the Jewish worshipers."

US President Donald Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his second declaration that "it is impossible to conceive a political settlement in which the wall is not part of Israeli sovereignty," have sparked a wave of protests in Palestine and abroad.

The postponement of Pence's visit helped solve this dilemma temporarily. Yet, the leaders of the Israeli right rejected and criticized the rabbi's position.

"If the news is true, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must immediately intervene and insist on holding the press conference where Pence has requested," said an Israeli MP. “With all respect for the rabbi, and I really respect him, he does not have the authority to decide on such political issues."

A senior White House official told Israeli media that Pence postponed his visit to remain in Washington to participate in a Congressional vote to pass Trump's tax reform legislation.

The source explained that the date of the vote “did not allow Pence to travel to the Middle East this week. In the case of a tie in the Senate (50-50), the Vice-President's vote shall be the tie-breaker.”

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