White House denies Pence’s trip to Israel canceled
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White House denies Pence’s trip to Israel canceled

VP’s staff insist visit, originally delayed by US tax vote and rescheduled for January 14, will take place as planned

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

Palestinians burn Israeli flags next to a poster bearing images of US President Donald Trump (R), US Vice President Mike Pence (C), and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a demonstration at the al-Quds Open University in Dura, a village on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Hebron, on December 13, 2017.(AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)
Palestinians burn Israeli flags next to a poster bearing images of US President Donald Trump (R), US Vice President Mike Pence (C), and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a demonstration at the al-Quds Open University in Dura, a village on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Hebron, on December 13, 2017.(AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

US Vice President Mike Pence’s office on Monday denied reports that a planned trip to Israel had been delayed indefinitely beyond January.

Responding to a tweet from The Associated Press saying, “Pence visit to Israel postponed again,” the vice president’s press secretary Alyssa Farah wrote, “This report is false. The VP is still going to Israel as planned.”

In addition, Pence’s deputy chief of staff Jarrod Agen tweeted, “As we’ve said, @VP Pence is traveling to Israel & Egypt later this month. Reports otherwise are wrong. There’s a false story circulating of a delay. It’s not true.”

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

Pence was originally scheduled to arrive in the region in late December, but postponed the trip due to the US administration’s efforts to push a tax reform through Congress.

It had also been speculated that the vice president canceled his trip due to the fact that Palestinian officials and leading Muslim and Christian clerics no longer wanted to receive him, in protest of US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry published its list of foreign dignitaries due in Israel this month. Pence’s name did not appear on the list. Asked to clarify, Israeli officials said that “due to various scheduling difficulties,” no new date has yet been set for the vice president’s visit. In a later clarification, the Foreign Ministry insisted it “never said he isn’t coming.”

Palestinians burn the picture of the US Vice President Mike Pence during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, December 17, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)

When the trip was rescheduled, administration officials said Pence would visit January 14, coinciding with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure from Israel on a previously scheduled five-day trip to India.

Scott Pruitt, the current administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, is due in Israel in late January.

Pence was originally expected in Israel on December 20 after a trip to Egypt, following closely on the heels of Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

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

In Ramallah, he was to sit down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but Abbas pulled out of the meeting after denouncing Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.

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