Published: Tue, December 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Mike Pence delays Israel, Egypt trip as tax vote nears

Mike Pence delays Israel, Egypt trip as tax vote nears

Photo Palestinians demonstrating on Sunday near the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem against a scheduled visit by Vice President Mike Pence.

Then Trump announced on December 6 that his administration had chose to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, breaking with decades of USA policy and drawing sharp criticism from allies and adversaries.

White House officials determined that if Pence could not leave for his trip by Tuesday evening, it would have pushed his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday to a very late hour and left little time to hold meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in Israel before Friday at sunset, when Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, begins.

"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. An assessment is growing within the Israeli security establishment that Palestinian terrorist organizations will attempt to further escalate this rocket fire during US Vice President Mike Pence's scheduled visit to Israel this week.

Pence's office said it made a decision to delay the trip to ensure Senate passage of the GOP tax bill, which is likely to keep the vice president in Washington past his scheduled Tuesday night departure. That plan was disrupted by the uproar over the Jerusalem decision.

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The change of plans comes days after Palestinian officials cancelled their meeting with Pence in the West Bank following Trump's decision last week to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

The decision also came amid mounting tension in the region over President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "We'll obviously still go to Egypt and Israel, but we may add additional countries", the official said. This was the Trump administration's first Security Council veto, and all 14 other members supported the resolution, underscoring the US isolation on the issue.

The House of Representatives was due to vote first at around 1:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) on Tuesday, according to Republican aides, while the Senate vote is expected to follow either later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.

Aside from the protests, Palestinian, Muslim and Coptic leaders had cancelled meetings with the vice president, who had already trimmed the trip by three days.

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