Pence to visit Israel January 22-23 following reschedule, White House says

US vice president to travel first to Egypt and Jordan, not expected to meet with Palestinians, who said they’d shun him over Jerusalem recognition

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Young America's Foundation's 39th annual National Conservative Student Conference, August 4, 2017, in Washington, DC. (AP/Alex Brandon)
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Young America's Foundation's 39th annual National Conservative Student Conference, August 4, 2017, in Washington, DC. (AP/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel this month after postponing a trip to the Middle East in December.

The White House announced Monday that Pence will travel to the region January 19-23, starting with a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Pence will also confer with King Abdullah II of Jordan and then hold two days of meetings and events in Israel.

Pence’s agenda in Israel includes meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, an address to the Knesset, and visits to the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Pence postponed his visit to Israel and Egypt in mid-December because of a Senate vote on Trump’s tax overhaul. But Pence’s trip to the Middle East, his first as vice president, will be carefully watched following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which prompted Palestinian leaders to cancel planned meetings with the vice president.

Alyssa Farah, a Pence spokeswoman, said Pence was traveling to the Middle East at Trump’s direction “to reaffirm our commitment to work with the US’s allies in the region to defeat radicalism that threatens future generations.” Farah said Pence was “looking forward to meeting with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel to discuss ways to work together to fight terrorism and improve our national security.”

Pence is not expected to meet with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as their capital.

Before Trump’s announcement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had planned to meet with Pence in the biblical city of Bethlehem, but pulled out of the meeting in protest. The White House decision on Jerusalem also prompted leading Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt to refuse to meet with the vice president in Cairo. Pence is only expected to meet with Sissi, a leading Trump ally, while in Egypt.

In a December 6 address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this story.

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