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Already decked out for Pence visit, Jerusalem forced to roll back welcome

Flags and security barriers set up around the capital are removed after White House, at last minute, postpones vice president’s trip to Israel, Egypt

Security barriers set up outside the King David Hotel in Jerusalem ahead of US Vice President Mike Pence's are taken down on December 19, 2017. (Times of Israel)
Security barriers set up outside the King David Hotel in Jerusalem ahead of US Vice President Mike Pence's are taken down on December 19, 2017. (Times of Israel)

Flags and security barriers set up for US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Jerusalem were removed Tuesday, after the White House re-scheduled the visit for next month.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman told The Times of Israel the measures “were being taken down and kept for the visit whenever it takes place.”

There was no estimate of the costs of the preparation.

Pence was set to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, but the White House announced Monday evening that his visit would be delayed until mid-January, citing the Trump administration’s efforts to shepherd tax reform through Congress.

Senior US administration officials said the uncertainty of the timing of the Senate vote could have pushed back Pence’s schedule in Egypt and Israel, and the vice president felt it was important to be in the Senate in case he was needed to break a tie vote. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington DC, February 16, 2017, (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

The schedule shift follows US President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which prompted Palestinian officials and leading Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt to refuse to meet with Pence, forcing him to adjust his schedule.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had originally intended to meet with Pence but pulled out of the West Bank meeting after denouncing Trump’s decision.

Pence had been slated to hold meetings Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and deliver an address to the Knesset. Pence was to end his trip to Israel with a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin and a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

But White House officials said any delay in the tax vote might have prevented the vice president from departing Washington on time and complicated a tightly orchestrated set of meetings in Egypt and Israel.

Palestinian children look at graffiti depicting US President Donald Trump and slogans against US Vice President Mike Pence painted on Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem during clashes with Palestinian protesters near an Israeli checkpoint on December 7, 2017. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Republicans, who hold a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, are expected to pass the bill by a narrow margin amid unified Democratic opposition, but White House officials said the vice president did not want to take any chances. Pence would cast a vote in case of a tie.

“The vice president is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line,” said Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, in a statement. She said Pence “looks forward to traveling to Egypt and Israel in January.”

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