Netanyahu leads chorus of Israeli praise for Pence speech
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Netanyahu leads chorus of Israeli praise for Pence speech

PM thanks US vice president for his 'steadfast stance' against Iran nuke deal, 'unreserved support for Israel's security needs'

US Vice President Mike Pence (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ariel Schalit)
US Vice President Mike Pence (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 22, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday led a warm chorus of Israeli praise for US Vice President Mike Pence’s Knesset speech, hailing it for its moral clarity and its firm support of Israel.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed satisfaction about Vice President Mike Pence’s warm speech and about his clear statements that he made,” his office said.

Netanyahu singled out for praise Pence’s “steadfast stance” against the Iranian nuclear agreement; the Trump administration’s vow to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019; the US’s “unreserved support for Israel’s security needs and efforts for peace”; and “the willingness to work together against the challenges in the Middle East,” the statement said.

President Reuven Rivlin thanked Pence for his “inspiring, important speech in the Knesset.”

“Jerusalem eagerly awaits the US Embassy, ​​& I am looking forward to our meeting tomorrow. As you said from the Knesset podium, we are thankful to God that He preserved us & brought us to this moment,” Rivlin wrote on Twitter.

US Vice President Mike Pence addressing the Knesset on January 22, 2018. (Knesset spokesperson)

Other government ministers thanked Pence for his longstanding support of Israel, praising him as a friend.

“This was a speech that will enter the annals of both nations. Thanks, friend,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on his Twitter account.

“Vice President Pence’s speech was moving, inspiring and conveyed a message of hope to all the people in the region,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

In a statement posted to his Twitter account, Liberman attacked MKs from the Joint (Arab) List, who were kicked out of the Knesset plenum after they interrupted Pence’s speech and unfurled posters proclaiming that “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.”

These lawmakers “proved once again that they are representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset,” Liberman fumed. “Their shameful behavior exposed to everyone their disloyalty to the state and its symbols. Only when Israeli Arabs allow other voices to represent them will be a chance for true peace.”

Strategic Affairs and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan called Pence’s address “historic” and “moving.”

“A great leader who really loves us — with all his heart,” he said. “Not as a politician but out of deep faith and understanding of the role and mission of the Jewish state.” Today is an “exciting day,” Erdan added. “We are fortunate to have merited to hear his solemn and moving words.”

Writing on his Twitter account in English, Erdan called Pence’s speech “tremendous.”

“This is a great day for the unbreakable US-Israel bond, and for our common fight to defeat terror and protect freedom,” he wrote.

US Vice President Mike Pence gives a speech at the Knesset on January 22, 2018. (Gil Yochanan/Pool/Flash90)

Minister of Intelligence and Transportation Israel Katz said Pence proved again his true friendship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. “Important statements were made by VP Pence — the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem by the end of next year and that the US will never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” he said.

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog, on his Twitter account, addressed the vice president directly: “We extend you, your wife and delegation a welcome of warmth and friendship from the Knesset, the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant democracies. You are a true friend of Israel who has always stood by us with moral clarity and courage.”

While Pence’s speech was welcomed by most Israeli lawmakers, it was also criticized by others for being “messianic” and harmful to Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

“We heard a religious and messianic speech. Pence, like Trump, doesn’t understand how much one-sided steps harm the peace process,” said MK Michal Rozin of the left-wing Meretz party.

“The call for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, accompanied by another one-sided step of moving the embassy to Jerusalem by the end of [2019], is a paradox that only the Trump’s zany government can understand,” she added.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, who last week called Pence “dangerous” and “messianic” when announcing his party would boycott Pence’s speech, said he was proud of his party for holding up signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” as the US vice president began his speech.

“Proud to lead the Joint List in strong, legitimate protest, against the Trump-Netanyahu regime’s exaltation of racism and hatred, who speak of peace solely as lip service,” tweeted Odeh.

“Our protest today in the plenum is in honor of all who oppose the occupation and dream of peace.”

Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List hold signs reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” at the start of US Vice President Mike Pence on January 22, 2018. (Courtesy: Joint List)

Saeb Erekat, the longtime negotiator for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said Pence’s speech would only distance the prospects of peace.

“The messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists & has proven that the US Administration is part of the problem rather than the solution. His message to the rest of the world is clear: violate international law & resolutions and the US will reward you,” said Erekat on Twitter.

Pence’s speech came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in Brussels to urge European Union member states to recognize a Palestinian state.

While in the region, Pence will not meet with Abbas or other PA officials, who have refused to meet with Trump administration officials regarding the peace process since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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