US to open Jerusalem embassy sooner than expected

During his visit to Israel, US vice-president Mike Pence said the embassy in Jerusalem will be open by the end of 2019

Mike Pence received a warm welcome from Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: The Guardian)
Mike Pence received a warm welcome from Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: The Guardian)

The US will open its embassy in Jerusalem by the end of 2019, ahead of schedule, vice-president Mike Pence said.

Pence kicked off his visit to Israel by saying it was an honour “to be in Israel's capital, Jerusalem".

“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the US embassy in Jerusalem – and that United States embassy will open before the end of next year,” he said in a speech to roaring applause in the Israeli Knesset.

READ MORE: Malta amongst UN vote condemning Trump's Jerusalem Declaration

Speaking during a two-day visit, Pence said Donald Trump had “righted a 70-year wrong” by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The US vice president met with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu but was snubbed by the Palestinian President, angry about Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Pence received a warm welcome and placed his right hand over his heart as an honour guard greeted him with the American national anthem.

Netanyahu lauded the American-Israeli alliance, which he said has "never been stronger".

The move has been condemned by the Palestinians, their Arab allies, and much of the broader diplomatic community, who say the status of the city should be decided in future peace negotiations.

Israel has however praised the decision taken by Trump on 6 December.

Violent protests since Trump's announcement has left at least 17 Palestinians dead, mostly in clashes with Israeli forces. One Israeli has been killed in that time.

The Palestinians are planning a general strike on Tuesday to protest Trump's declaration.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the boycott a disgrace, telling the Knesset on Monday that Trump’s decision would go down as historic.

Following a private meeting between the two politicians earlier on Monday, Netanyahu said: “This is the first time that I stand here where both leaders can say those three words: ‘Israel’s capital Jerusalem’.”

Pence will address the Israeli parliament later on Monday, but his speech will be boycotted by Israeli Arab politicians, who call him "dangerous and messianic".

His visit is the final leg of a trip that has included talks in Egypt and Jordan.