Vice President Pence says US Embassy in Jerusalem will open next year

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Monday, January 22, 2018
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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Vice President Mike Pence says the United States will open its embassy in Jerusalem next year, ahead of schedule.

In an address to the Israeli parliament on Monday, Pence defended the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which has been condemned by the Palestinians and their Arab allies.

Pence says the administration will advance its plan in the coming weeks and the embassy will open by the end of 2019. Previous estimates had said the move would take three or four years.

The Palestinians claim Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital. They say the U.S. cannot be a mediator after the decision and have pre-emptively rejected any peace plan presented by the Trump administration.

Arab lawmakers in Israel's parliament have been tossed out from the house for heckling Vice President Mike Pence at the start of his speech.

The main Arab party in the Israeli parliament warned ahead of time it would boycott Pence on Monday.

The Knesset, which is accustomed to such high-profile visits, had added a new layer of security, and besides the speaker and other dignitaries, lawmakers did not have direct access to Pence.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List, said it was the party's democratic right to boycott the speech by the U.S. vice president. In a tweet, he said the party will not provide a "silent backdrop" to a man he called a "dangerous racist."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the boycott a disgrace. He and others gave Pence a standing ovation.

Netanyahu is thanking visiting Vice President Pence for standing up for the "truth" and supporting Israel at the United Nations.

Netanyahu told Pence on Monday in a speech to parliament that President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the country's capital will go down as one of the most historic in Israel's history.

Alternating between English and Hebrew, Netanyahu lauded the unbreakable alliance between the countries, saying they had a "shared destiny."

He said: "America has no greater friend than Israel, and Israel has no greater friend than the United States of America."

Trump: It's time to officially recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel

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