TEL AVIV – In a landmark speech in the Israeli Knesset Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration would relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, called on the Palestinians to return to resume negotiations, and pledged that unless it was “fixed,” his country would scrap the “disastrous” Iran nuclear deal.
His speech, which marked the first time an American vice president has addressed the Knesset, elicited several standing ovations from both rightwing and leftwing Knesset members, but was briefly interrupted by Arab MKs who held signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” in protest. The offending lawmakers were subsequently removed from the plenum.
“Just last month, President Donald Trump made history. He righted a 70 year wrong, he kept his promise to the American people,” he said in reference to the Washington’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The U.S. Embassy will open [in Jerusalem] before the end of next year,” said Pence.
The move, he said, was “in the best interest of peace.”
“By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction.”
Trump is “fully committed to achieving a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Pence, adding that “the United States will support a two-state solution” as long as “both sides agree.”
“Today, we strongly urge the Palestinian leadership to return to the table. Peace can only come through dialogue,” he said.
Pence reiterated that “any peace agreement must guarantee Israel’s ability to defend itself by itself.”
“There are those who believe the world can’t change… but my friends, President Trump doesn’t believe it, I don’t believe it, and neither do you. I stand here today in a city whose very name means peace,” said Pence.
He said the Iranian nuclear deal led by the previous administration was a disaster and that Trump’s recent decision to extend the sanctions waiver was nothing more than a delaying tactic for Congress “and our European allies” to have time to fix the deal.
“The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster and the United States of America will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement,” Pence said.
“The United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” said Pence. “Beyond the nuclear deal, we will also no longer tolerate its support of terrorism.”
“This is the last time [the waiver will be extended]. Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed, President Trump, the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately,” said Pence.
He also addressed the Iranian people directly, saying, “We are your friends and the day is coming when you will be free from the evil regime that suffocates your dreams and buries your hopes.”
“And when your day of liberation finally comes, we say to the good people of Iran, the friendship between our peoples will blossom once again.”
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Pence for being “a great friend of Israel” and noted that it was the first time he could stand with another leader who could “say those three words, ‘Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.’”
“I want to thank President Trump and you for that historic statement, which I know you supported and championed,” he added. “I welcome you, dear friend, to Jerusalem. Welcome,” Netanyahu told Pence.