Pence postpones Mideast trip to mid-January, citing tax bill

Lucy Bush
December 21, 2017

Pence was originally scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the trip, but a Palestinian Authority official said last week that "they are no longer coordinating with them [the U.S.] on this visit", noting that they were unaware of the delay.

In October, Vice President Mike Pence, a forthright Evangelical Christian, expressed his intention to show solidarity with the Middle East's persecuted Christians before Christmas.

"We have some senators who obviously can't make it there for the vote and the vice president feels that it's important for him to be here for the largest tax cut in history", the official said.

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The text was introduced by Egypt, where Pence had been scheduled to arrive Wednesday for talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The US administration has denied claims that Pence's visit to the Middle East being delayed is linked to the massive protests in Palestine against Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. John McCain, R-Ariz., was returning to his home state for cancer treatment, leaving Republicans with only 51 votes for the tax bill. The Vice President is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line.

The White House warned that cancelling the meeting in the West Bank would be "counterproductive", but Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to shun Pence following Trump's announcement. Egypt called for the resolution, which did not name the United States or Trump but expressed "deep regret at certain decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem", and asserted that "Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations".

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Pence had also planned to address the Knesset, visit the Western Wall and meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had originally meant to meet with Pence but pulled out of the meeting after denouncing Trump's decision.

The announcement from Pence's office came on the same day the USA vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that would have rejected "decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem".

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