Yesterday evening, the White House in Washington denied reports, originating in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the effect that US Vice President Mike Pence would cancel his planned visit to Israel this month.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem published a list yesterday of the foreign VIPs scheduled to make official visits to Israel in January. Pence's name was absent from the list, despite the fact that he is expected to come to Israel during the week beginning January 14, although a final date has not yet been set.
Pence was in fact due to come to Israel on December 20. The visit was postponed by a day, and then again postponed to mid-January. According to US administration spokespersons, the two postponements arose from close votes in the Senate on the tax reform bill, which obliged Pence to attend so that he would be able to cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials said that Pence's exclusion from the visitors list stemmed from "timing difficulties" and that no new date had been set for the Vice President's visit to Israel. The US media picked up on the story. AP, for example, reported that Pence had again postponed his visit to Israel.
In response, the vice president’s press secretary stated: “This report is false. The VP is still going to Israel as planned," while his deputy chief of staff Jarrod Agen tweeted: “As we’ve said, @VP Pence is traveling to Israel & Egypt later this month. Reports otherwise are wrong. There’s a false story circulating of a delay. It’s not true.”
Following this, officials in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that they had never said that Pence would not come to Israel.
At any rate, neither Pence's press secretary nor his deputy chief of staff named a precise date for his visit to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to leave on an official trip to India on January 14, and he will participate in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos towards the end of the month. It is not clear when it might be possible for him to hold talks with Pence in Jerusalem.
US administration spokespersons have been saying in the past few weeks that the previous postponements of the visit were unconnected to the declaration by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians were breaking off all contacts with the US on renewal of peace negotiations with Israel because of President Donald Trump's announcement of US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and of instructions to start the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Heads of the Christian minority among the Palestinians have also said that they will not meet Pence.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 2, 2018
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