US Vice President Pence delays visit to Israel - Knesset

US Vice President Mike Pence delays Israel visit

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Delaying the Jerusalem visit and keeping the vice president in Washington allows Pence to cast that vote if tax reform moves forward next week. Pence serves as president of the Senate.

The trip to Israel follows President Trump's official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and decision to move the United States embassy there.

Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the chamber and are trying to vote next week before Democrat Doug Jones, who won a special election in Alabama on Tuesday, is sworn in, which will shrink the majority by one additional vote.

As vice president, Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote in the US Senate, and with a close vote expected along party lines on the tax legislation, it was made a decision to keep him in the country just in case.

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But Palestinian and religious leaders said they would refuse to meet Pence during his visit.

The former IN governor was originally set to visit Bethlehem and meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas's Fatah party, said last week that Pence was "not welcome IN Palestine".

In Egypt, aides said that Pence plans to address a range of issues in addition to the peace process: reaffirm a strong U.S. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was hospitalized Wednesday for side effects from his cancer treatment. Sen. Abbas had originally planned to host Pence, a devout Christian, in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Pence will meet on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and deliver an address to the Knesset and later dine with Netanyahu.

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Pence, in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), said he was "humbled" by the opportunity to speak to the Knesset.

Arab Israeli lawmakers have also said they will boycott Pence's speech in the Knesset, "in order to send a clear message to the U.S. administration and the world that there are citizens here that vehemently oppose Trump's announcement" on Jerusalem. The decision upended decades of US foreign policy and countered an global consensus that Jerusalem's status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump has set an ambitious goal of brokering Mideast peace and tasked his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to help lay the groundwork for direct negotiations. The reasons for the delay are still unclear, and the new schedule for the trip is yet to be released. Kushner and other top Trump aides have traveled to the region to meet with Palestinians, Israelis and officials from Arab nations.

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