Palestinian MPs kicked out of Knesset during Pence speech

24 January, 2018, 11:18 | Author: Dustin Murphy
  • Adam Rippon of the United States

President Donald Trump last month recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said he would move the USA embassy there - dismaying Palestinians who claim the eastern part of the city.

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, now on a visit to Brussels, called on European countries to recognize the State of Palestine quickly.

Why is the status of Jerusalem so controversial?

Palestinians and Arab Israelis have protested Pence's visit, with even Knesset members making their dissent clear.

At his side, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reaffirmed the bloc's commitment to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestine, saying it is the "only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties". These are considered illegal under global law, although Israel disputes this.

Parliament, where he reiterated the city was "the capital of the state of Israel".

On Monday, he became the first U.S. vice president to speak at the Israeli Knesset, but his speech was initially interrupted by a group of politicians with the Joint Arab List alliance who voiced their anger over Washington's controversial move.

The Palestinian leadership, which is boycotting Mr Pence's visit over the Jerusalem move, tried to hijack the moment in the Knesset.

None of this is a good sign for any chance of a peace plan that started off a year ago to be brokered by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, but apparently went off the edge of a cliff when the American President suddenly recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and pledged to move the American Embassy there.

Pence tried to reassure the monarch that the US was committed to restarting peace efforts and to a two-state solution, if both sides agree.

Last week Abbas denounced Trump's peace efforts as the "slap of the century" and accused Israel of ending the Oslo accords that underpin negotiations - which have been effectively frozen since 2014.

Pence, who visited Egypt and Jordan before traveling to Israel, said that with its policy shift on Jerusalem, "the United States has chosen fact over fiction - and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace".

That was because the state department still needed to acquire a site, commission architects and gain planning approval, and then build the compound, he explained.

In Brussels, Abbas told European officials that recognizing a Palestinian state would give his people hope and "open the doors to peace". "Those are subject to negotiation", Pence said.

Starting with former U.S. president Bill Clinton, all USA administrations have opposed construction in E1, holding that it posed a threat to the viability of a future Palestinian state. "But what we agreed on was the need for all parties to come back to the table", Pence said.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We welcome the news that thanks to the firm stand taken by President Trump and House and Senate Republicans, the government shutdown in Washington, D.C., is coming to an end.

Trump became the first sitting United States president to visit the site when he travelled to Jerusalem in May 2017.

How did Palestinians react to the speech?

Noting that Israel will in May mark 70 years since its founding - in a war Palestinians mourn as a catastrophe - Pence switched to Hebrew to recite a Jewish prayer of thanksgiving. It had proven that the United States was "part of the problem rather than the solution", he added.


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