Jerusalem (AFP) – US Vice President Mike Pence pledged Monday that his country would move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “by the end” of 2019, a step fiercely opposed by Palestinians.
In the same speech from the rostrum of the Israeli parliament Pence urged the Palestinians to resume long-stalled peace talks with the Jewish state.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and as such President Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Pence said to prolonged applause from Israeli parliamentarians.
“In the weeks ahead our administration will advance its plan to open the United States embassy in Jerusalem. And that United States embassy will open before the end of next year.”
At the start of his address, Israeli Arab lawmakers, angry at a December 6 decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, tried to stage a protest from the floor of the Knesset.
Members of the Joint List coalition of Arab parties, which had pledged to boycott the Pence speech, began shouting and holding up protest signs as he started speaking but were swiftly hustled out by ushers.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital broke with decades of international consensus that the city’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
It prompted the Palestinians to cut ties with the Trump administration, but Pence urged them to return to negotiations.
“Today we strongly urge the Palestinian leadership to return to the table,” he said. “Peace can only come through dialogue.”