“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem—and that United States embassy will open before the end of next year,” Mr. Pence said.
Legislators in the Knesset stood and applauded Mr. Pence’s declaration.
At the start of the speech, several Arab members of the Knesset shouted protests while waving signs, some reading “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” They were quickly removed by security agents.
Mr. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and the relocation was initially expected to take several years. However, more recently U.S. officials have indicated the new embassy could open next year, as they look to modify an existing property rather than seek a new site.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Pence met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked him and Mr. Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
- Pence Hears Criticism About Jerusalem Policy on Jordan Trip (Jan. 21, 2018)
- Trump Administration Accelerating Israeli Embassy Move (Jan. 18, 2018)
- Trump Says U.S. Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital (Dec. 6, 2017)
Standing beside Mr. Pence, Mr. Netanyahu said: “I’ve had the privilege over the years of standing here with hundreds of leaders and welcomed them, all of them, to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. This is the first time I stand here where both leaders can say those three words: ‘Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.’”
Asked by a reporter about the timing of the embassy move, Mr. Netanyahu said, “We can do it by next week.” Pressed if he was serious he replied, “No, but we want to do it, quickly,” before saying the relocation was very important to him.
The decision to move the embassy in Jerusalem sparked a backlash from Arab leaders who warned the city’s status should be resolved through a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians.
There have been no formal high-level peace talks since 2014. The Trump administration has promised to make proposals.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, the body that negotiates in peace talks with Israel, said Mr. Pence’s speech proved “that the U.S. administration is part of the problem rather than the solution.”
“His message to the rest of the world is clear: violate international law...and the U.S. will reward you,” Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the PLO, said in the statement.
In Brussels ahead of a meeting with European Union foreign ministers, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rolled back on threats to walk away from talks and said the Palestinian Authority will not abandon the Oslo peace accords, which seek to create a two-state peace solution, with Israel.
“We could hear, here and there, some say things that could give the impression that there are obstacles toward negotiations but we are keen on continuing,” he said.
While there have been sharp disagreements between Europe and Washington on the peace process, EU officials had said before Monday’s meeting they would push Mr. Abbas not to turn away from U.S.-led negotiations. Most European governments strongly opposed Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Mr. Abbas urged the EU to “swiftly” recognize Palestine as an independent state, saying this would help win the patience of Palestinians for the peace process. However European diplomats have said that is not on the table right now. Decisions on recognition lie with each EU capital.
However, EU ministers said they would look to see what more the bloc could do to support the Palestinians financially, including ensuring sufficient funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides funding for Palestinian refugees.
The Trump administration has suspended around $65 million in funding for the agency, around half its planned donation for 2018. Mr. Trump has said the U.S. government, despite being a large donor to the agency, gets “no appreciation or respect” from the Palestinians.
Over the weekend, Mr. Pence spoke to the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, both of whom expressed reservations about the Trump administration’s position. King Abdullah II of Jordan warned at a luncheon that the move imperils the Middle East peace process.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a new Palestinian state. Jordan’s king said that Jerusalem’s status “is key to peace in the region” and is as important to “Muslims and Christians as it is to Jews.”
Mr. Pence said in reply that the U.S. still supports a two-state solution if the parties involved want one and that final Palestinian and Israeli boundary lines should be subject to negotiation.
—Laurence Norman and Rory Jones contributed to this article.
Write to Peter Nicholas at email@example.com
Source : https://www.wsj.com/articles/pence-says-u-s-will-open-embassy-in-jerusalem-next-year-1516628024