Pence Declines Meeting With Israeli Opposition Leader During Official Visit

Isaac Herzog's office says protocol does not require Pence to meet him; the U.S. vice president will meet Netanyahu and President Rivlin

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence touches down in Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport on January 21, 2018.
Jack Guez/ AFP

Opposition head Isaac Herzog requested to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during the latter's two-day visit in Israel but was apparently denied.

Herzog's bureau confirmed on Sunday night a few hours after Pence landed in Tel Aviv that Herzog associates turned to Pence's office in attempt to organize a meeting between the vice president and the Israeli opposition leader but the attempt did not bear fruit.

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Herzog's office said that official protocol does not require Pence to meet with representatives from the opposition in a visit of this kind. However, Herzog is slated to address the Knesset plenum on Monday during a special session in Pence's honor. The opposition leader will take the stage after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just before Pence makes his own speech. Herzog's office noted that he will convey his messages to Pence in the speech that he will deliver.

A White House official told Haaretz that "the vice president's schedule was set and didn't allow for any additional meetings aside from the prime minister and the president."

The vice president landed in Israel after leaving the U.S. on a Middle East trip amid a government shutdown. Pence also made stops in Egypt and in Jordan, where he paid a surprise visit to an American military base on the Jordan-Syria border and convened with Egyptian President Abdel-al Fatah al-Sissi as well as King Abdullah.

King Abdullah II told Pence on Sunday that he was concerned over Washington's monumental December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and insisted that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the two-state solution, Abdullah said. "The U.S. decision on Jerusalem does not come as a result of a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," the monarch added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke favorably of Pence's visit before he landed, saying that there was "no substitute for U.S. leadership" in promoting peace and security in the region.

Speaking at a Foreign Ministry conference, Netanyahu said of Pence's visit: "This evening we welcome US Vice President Mike Pence, a great friend of Israel. He has landed here and we will welcome him with warmth and pride. I will discuss two issues with him: Peace and security.

"On peace," Netanyahu continued, "I have a message for Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]: There is no alternative for American leadership in the diplomatic process. Whoever is not ready to talk with the Americans about peace – does not want peace.

On security, I have a message for the countries of Europe: I suggest that they take President Trump's words seriously. If they want to preserve the nuclear agreement with Iran, they must propose amendments to the agreement that will prevent Iran from going nuclear, which threatens them and the entire world."

During his stay, Pence will make the aforementioned appearance at the Knesset. He will also meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visit the Western Wall. 

Haaretz