Abbas wins European Union backing for Palestinian capital

Ahmad Tibi

Washington has had no contact with the Palestinian Authority since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in early December, a senior White House official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the main Arab party in the Israeli Parliament said it will boycott Mr. Pence's speech, though it wasn't immediately clear whether they will walk out on him or skip the session. Newsweek has reached out to Tibi for further comment.

Pence said the US State Department would spell out details in the coming weeks about a plan to move the US embassy to Jerusalem by the end of 2019.

"Our president made his decision in the best interest of the United States", he said.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem its indivisible capital. If they want to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, however, they will have to appeal to the Palestinians and Christians who now shun them.

Palestinian leaders have been sharply critical of Trump's decision.

Palestinians have ruled out Washington as a peace broker after Trump's Dec.6 declaration on Jerusalem.

Pence insisted Trump's approach would ultimately provide new momentum to peace talks. Netanyahu said the Israeli-U.S. relationship had "never been stronger".

Around a dozen Arab Israeli lawmakers were expelled from the chamber as Pence began his speech after they shouted in protest. The majority of the worldwide community considers the Jewish outposts in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where hundreds of thousands now live, to be illegal under global law. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the likely capital of their future state. Much of the global community considers Jerusalem to be contested and its status to be negotiated directly between Israelis and Palestinians.

Pence and his wife Karen were due to arrive in Israel late Sunday from Amman, where he met with Jordanian King Abdullah.

During his first trip to the region as vice president, Pence sought to enlist the help of Arab leaders in Egypt and Jordan on the Mideast peace process and used a high-profile speech to the Knesset to reaffirm President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital and accelerate plans to open a us embassy in Jerusalem.

"In the past, Israelis and Palestinians saw the U.S.as a neutral side, a side that did not take a unilateral position and now this is not the case at all", said Hadas Cohen, a political scientist from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Western Wall is located in Jerusalem's Old City, which Israel captured in the 1967 war. Muslims revere the mount as the Haram Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Rivlin praised Pence's speech to parliament and his role in pushing for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"Well, the reality is that this was an unnecessary government shutdown, and the American people knew it", Pence told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, in excerpts released of the interview Tuesday morning.

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