WASHINGTON – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will visit Israel next week to participate in a Holocaust memorial event, the White House confirmed Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also attend the event, President Reuven Rivlin's office said. Her office has yet to confirm her participation.
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Pence's plan to travel to Israel had been expected, but this is the first time the administration has confirmed that it will take place on January 23.
According to the White House statement, Pence and his wife Karen will be in Israel for two days before traveling to Italy to meet with Pope Francis in Rome. During his time in Israel, Pence will be one of dozens of leaders and senior government representatives from around the world who will attend event at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Haaretz reported last month about tension between the offices of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuover the Holocaust remembrance event, mainly over who will be presented publicly as the "host" of the foreign dignitaries.
Rivlin's office believes Netanyahu is attempting to take over the international event for his re-election campaign. In 2019's two election cycles, Netanyahu highlighted his diplomatic experience and rapport with Putin and President Donald Trump. According to sources, he sees it as important to appear side by side with world leaders just one month before Israel's election on March 2.
Polish President Andrzej Duda declined Israel's invitation to the event because organizers would not allow him to speak there. Duda said he was "astonished" at Putin being invited to speak while he was not.
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Polish leaders have been infuriated by comments made by Putin last month suggesting that Poland shares responsibility for World War II.
Putin said Poland – which in September 1939 was invaded first by Nazi Germany from the west and then by Soviet forces from the east – had helped bring disaster on itself by conniving in the previous year in plans to dismember Czechoslovakia, its southern neighbor.
Duda also said he was surprised when he received the invitation to the ceremony at Yad Vashem, marking an annual memorial date chosen by the United Nations, because he felt the appropriate place to hold the ceremony was in Poland.
Reuters contributed to this report.