Pence: Trump giving ‘serious consideration‘ to embassy move

WASHINGTON — US Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the White House was continuing to give “serious consideration” to moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Speaking at an Israeli Independence Day event at the Indian Tea Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the US capital, Pence said the White House “as we speak, is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a statement he did not elaborate on but which garnered sustained applause from the several dozen guests.

Trump pledged during his campaign to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but as president he’s distanced himself away from the vow while saying it’s still under discussion. Like most countries, the US maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv because Israelis and Palestinians have competing claims to Jerusalem. Israel considers Jerusalem its undivided capital but Palestinians seek East Jerusalem for the capital of a future state.

Among the attendees at Tuesday’s event were US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), and White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who is said to be leaving the White House amid controversy surrounding his alleged ties to a Hungarian anti-Semitic group.

Today we celebrate and marvel at all that Israel and her people have accomplished.

The vice president, who was introduced by Friedman, said he wished a happy independence day to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone earlier Tuesday, calling Israel’s foundation in 1948 “nothing short of a miracle.”

“The people of Israel have turned hope into a future of security and prosperity,” he said.

Pence said that “under President Donald Trump, let me assure you this, if the world knows nothing else, the world will know this — America stands with Israel. Her cause is our cause. Her values are our values. Her fight is our fight.”

Hailing the “deep alliance” between the US and Israel, Pence said Trump “stands without apology for Israel, and he always will, adding that “the best days for Israel and for America are yet to come.”

Vice President Mike Pence, right, is introduced to speak by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during a ceremony commemorating Israeli Independence Day. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Friedman said that Tuesday’s event was the first time in recent memory “that the White House has hosted a reception commemorating Israel Independence Day,” calling Pence “a beacon of moral clarity, and a shining example of honor and decency” and a “champion of Israel.”

Dermer said Pence has shown friendship to Israel “throughout his public life” and thanked the vice president and the president “for this profound expression of friendship.”

In his speech, Pence spoke of Iran and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying Trump was “personally committed to resolving the Israeli and Palestinian conflict” and is “making valuable progress” toward that goal.

Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Monday, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Referring to the administration’s recent efforts led by special adviser Jason Greenblatt to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, Pence said that “while there undoubtedly will have to be compromises, you can rest assured, President Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel.”

The remarks came a day ahead of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to the White House on Wednesday.

Trump is expected to visit Israel toward the end of May.

Under Trump, Pence said, “the United States of America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” adding that “this administration has put Iran on notice.”

“America has a leader who will call our enemies by their name. ISIS [the Islamic State] is on the run and we will hunt down and destroy terrorist organizations at their source,” he said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks about Iran and North Korea after reading a statement at the State Department, on April 19, 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

Separately, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also offered his congratulations, on behalf of Trump, “to all Israelis as you celebrate your 69th Independence Day.

“The partnership between our two countries built on our shared values has advanced the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace. As Israel has endured and flourished over nearly seven decades despite unfathomable challenges, so too has the unbreakable bond between our two nations,” he said in a statement.

Tillerson said the US was looking forward “to even further strengthening a partnership that has long contributed to our mutual security and prosperity.”

“I wish the people of Israel a Yom Ha’atzmaut sameach [a happy independence day],” he said.

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