Spotlight: U.S. Pence urges stronger alliance with Israel for lasting peace in Mideast

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-23 19:33:25|Editor: Liangyu
Video PlayerClose

by Tamara Santos Traubmann

JERUSALEM, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday, stressing tight alliance between the U.S. and Israel will only grow stronger.

The meeting took place at the President's Residency in Jerusalem, on the final day of Pence's three-day visit.

Pence said that U.S. President Donald Trump "truly believes" that his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will "set the table to move forward in meaning negotiation to achieve a lasting peace and end the decades-long conflict."

Rivlin responded saying, "Inshallah," meaning "god willing" in Arabic.

Pence also said that Trump's administration stands besides Israel and is committed to stronger alliance between the two countries.

On Tuesday, Pence is expected to visit Yad-Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum, and lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.

His trip will be concluded with a private visit to the Western Wall, a holy Jewish site located in east Jerusalem's Old City, a territory annexed by Israel after the 1967 Middle East war.

The Western Wall is located on the foot of the al-Aqsa mosque compound, a focal point of the tensions in east Jerusalem.

Citing fears of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, the police plan to close part of the area during the visit and increase its presence in the Old City.

Pence kicked off his visit to Israel on Monday with a speech in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, marking the first address of a sitting vice president to the Knesset.

During his speech, which received repeated standing ovations, Pence said that the U.S. plans to accelerate the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

His speech drew protest from Arab lawmakers, who were forcibly removed from the hall after they pulled out signs reading "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."

Officials with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) also condemned the speech, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat saying it "has proven that the U.S. administration is part of the problem rather than the solution."

The Palestinians refused to meet Pence and the PNA declared one-day general strike on Tuesday to protest his Jerusalem statement.

Prior to Trump's statement, which was delivered on December 6, Pence was scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and visit the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

But the declaration deteriorated relations between the U.S. and the Palestinians, who canceled the visit, and heightened the tensions in the region.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, and has controlled these territories ever since despite international criticism.

The Palestinians wish to build their future state in these lands, with its capital in east Jerusalem.