ADDS PENCE'S REMARKS ON DAESH; EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Abdul Raouf Arnaout
JERUSALEM (AA) - The U.S. is advancing its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem “before the end of next year”, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced Monday.
Speaking to the Israeli Knesset (parliament), Pence repeated more than once that “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” stressing Washington’s stance to that effect announced last month, sparking a wave of protests across the Palestinian territories that to date has left at least 16 Palestinians dead.
President Donald Trump “has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said.
The embassy "will open before the end of next year,” he added.
On the stalemated Middle East peace process, he claimed the Palestinian side was responsible, saying: “We strongly urge the Palestinian leadership to return to the table. Peace can only come through dialogue.”
He then stressed: “America stands with Israel! … Your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight.”
Pence reading prayers in Hebrew was met with a standing ovation from members of the Knesset.
- 'US will hunt Daesh down'
“You can be assured we will not rest, we will not relent, until we hunt down and destroy Isis [Daesh] at its source, so it can no longer threaten our people, our allies, or our very way of life,” he added.
On the nuclear deal with Iran, Pence spoke in sync with the Israeli government line, calling it “a disaster,” and vowing that the U.S. “will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement."
Pence began his visit to Israel Monday with a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in West Jerusalem.
The visit is the first by a senior U.S. official since Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital last month.
Palestinian officials have refused to meet Pence during the visit in protest of Trump’s decision, which has triggered opposition worldwide.
On Sunday, Netanyahu described Pence as a "great friend of Israel" during a meeting with Israeli ambassadors accredited abroad.