Israel's president tells Pence he's a 'mensch'

In Jerusalem, Pence urges Europeans to change Iran nuclear deal

At the president’s residence, US vice president says speedy relocation of US Embassy a ‘tangible sign’ of US-Israel alliance

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday urged Europe to agree to open the Iranian nuclear deal, threatening that Washington will quit the landmark pact if its “sunset provisions” are not entirely removed.

Speaking next to President Reuven Rivlin at his Jerusalem residence, Pence also praised US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of the city as Israel’s capital, calling it a “tangible sign” of America’s commitment to the Jewish state.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in the battle against radical Islamic terrorism,” Pence told Rivlin. “I thank you, Mr. President, for your government’s courage, for the courage of your military. And I pledge to you continued collaboration and cooperation on behalf of our mutual security.”

The US stands together with Israel against Iran, the vice president continued, calling the Islamic Republic the “leading state sponsor of terror.”

“And just know that in PresidentTrump’s recent decision to announce that the waiver that he would sign on sanctions under the Iran nuclear deal would be the last one,” he said.

“We are sending a signal to our European allies that the time has come for changes in the Iran nuclear deal that will ensure that the sunset provisions in the deal are completely eliminated, and that punitive sanctions will be available for many years to come, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said, referring to clauses in the deal that critics warn will allow Tehran to break out the bomb as soon as the deal expires.

The US is committed to “work closely with our allies around the world to achieve that,” he told Rivlin. “If our allies will not join us, President Trump has made it clear we will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately. But we hope in the months ahead to able to strengthen it, to contribute to the security of the region, Israel’s security, and the security of American interests as well.”

Pence also spoke at some length about the US plan, which he revealed Monday in a speech to the Knesset, to move its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019.

“Let me say that President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, we hope, is the clearest sign yet of the unwavering commitment of the United States of America to Israel,” he said.

Trump has directed the US State Department to work with the American Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, “to complete the transition of moving our embassy here to Jerusalem by the end of next year, and we look forward to that as a tangible sign of our enduring commitment and alliance to the State of Israel and the people of this great nation,” Pence said.

“The bond between us, we believe, has never been stronger, but under President Trump’s leadership we are committed to make it stronger still.”

He went on to note that Trump had asked him also to “reiterate our nation’s deep commitment to peace.” The president truly believes that the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “will set the table for the opportunity to move forward in meaningful negotiations to achieve a lasting peace and end the decades long conflict,” he said.

Rivlin, replied: “Inshallah, as we say in Arabic, with God’s help.”

Earlier during their meeting, Rivlin thanked Pence for the administration’s decision on Jerusalem, noting that he was a seventh-generation Jerusalemite.

He lamented that for 100 years, his ancestors lived “in harmony” with the local Arabs, but “unfortunately, we are now in a sort of tragedy for both of us… most of them refusing to recognize the very existence of the State of Israel.” Confidence must be restored if progress is to be achieved, he added.

“You are very proud, always, to stand very firm behind your words in actions,” Rivlin told Pence, “and for that we have only one word to describe you: You are a mensch.” Translating for the benefit of Israelis, Rivlin said, as the vice president laughed, Pence is “a real human being.”

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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