U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the Knesset the U.S. Embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, ahead of schedule. His remarks, which received a standing ovation, came during the first ever address by a sitting U.S. vice president to the Israeli parliament.
“The United States has chosen fact over fiction — and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace,” Vice President Pence said. “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and the Embassy will open by the end of next year.”
In December, President Donald Trump made the “historic decision” to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump said it was “long overdue” and “the right thing to do,” adding that Israel “like every other sovereign nation has the right to determine its capital.”
The revelation the plans are moving ahead of schedule aren’t particularly surprising. Almost immediately after the decision, Secretary Rex W. Tillerson said the State Department would “immediately” begin “preparations to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
The decision not only fulfills a major campaign promise to religious conservatives and the vast majority of Americans who support Israel but also a 22-year old national promise to the key ally.
In 1995, Congress passed The Jerusalem Embassy and Relocation Act, which recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and called for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Waivers are permitted by presidents in the event national security is a concern, which President Trump signed in June.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke before Vice President Pence, praised the Trump Administration. He called Mr. Pence “a great friend of Israel” and said there was “no alternative for American leadership” regarding the Middle East peace process.
“Whoever is not ready to talk with the Americans about peace — does not want peace,” he said, a remark meant to answer Palestinian criticisms.
The Palestinians said it was no longer acceptable for the U.S. to be the mediator in the Mid-East peace process, something that has stalled amid hardliners on both sides gaining power. Mahmoud Abbas was elected under the flag of the political wing of the terrorist group Hamas, and is too often pushed away from a position of truly supporting a two-state solution.
Vice President Pence urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table and said the administration will support a two-state solution if both parties agree.
“Peace can only come through dialogue,” he said.
The Trump Administration has been much more pro-Israel than his predecessor. While the Obama Administration had been working with the United Nations (UN) against or to punish our key ally in the region, the Trump White House has done just the opposite.
In October, President Trump announced he had withdrawn the U.S. from UNESCO, citing badly-needed reforms and a continued anti-Israel bias. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has long been under fire for exposed corruption and bias that continues to go unaddressed.