US Vice President Mike Pence was met with one standing ovation after another in the Knesset, during his speech rife with Biblical references and expressions of support for Israel and the Jewish people.
Under US President Donald Trump, Pence said, US-Israel ties are stronger than ever.
“We stand with Israel, because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny...The people of the US have always held a special affection and admiration for the People of the Book. In the story of the Jews, we’ve always seen the story of America. It is the story of Exodus, a journey from persecution to freedom, a story that shows the power of faith and the promise of hope,” he stated.
Pence, the first US Vice President to address the Knesset’s plenary, spoke to a packed room.
A devout Evangelical Christian, Pence paraphrased Psalms: “The USA is proud to stand with Israel and her people, as allies and cherished friends. And so we will pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that those who love you be secure, that there be peace within your walls and security in your citadels. And we will work and strive for that brighter future, so everyone who calls this ancient land home shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.”
Pence urged the Palestinians, who are boycotting his visit to the region, to come to the negotiating table.
“We recognize that peace will require compromise, but you can be confident in this: The USA will never compromise on the safety and security of the State of Israel,” he stated.
“The US remains committed to peace,” Pence stated, saying that the US will support a two-state solution if both sides want it. That comment was met by a standing ovation from the opposition, while the coalition noticeably stayed in their seats.
The vice president announced that the US embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of next year, emphasizing that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
He also spoke out against Iran, calling the nuclear deal a “disaster,” and saying Trump will not certify it again.
Pence rapped Iran as the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and used the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” several times, saying it “respects no creed, stealing the lives of Jews, Christians and especially Muslims.”
“Together with our allies we will continue to bring the full force of our might to drive radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth,” he said.
During his speech, Pence waxed poetic about Israel and Jewish history.
“As I stand in Abraham’s Promised Land, I believe that all who cherish freedom and seek a brighter future should cast their eyes here and marvel at what they behold...How unlikely is Israel’s birth; how more unlikely is her survival,” he said.
Pence said the Jewish people held on to the hope of returning to their homeland over a 2,000 year exile, “through the darkest and longest nights.”
“Tomorrow, when I stand with my wife Karen at Yad Vashem to honor the six million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust, we will marvel at the faith and resilience of your people, who just three years after walking in the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect yourselves, to reclaim a Jewish future and rebuild the Jewish State.”
Speaking on Israel’s upcoming 70th Independence Day, Pence said the Shehechiyanu (“who has granted us life”) blessing, said to thank God on momentous occasions.
Pence’s blessing was met with a standing ovation from nearly all of the MKs present, as were several other points in his speech.
At the start of the speech, Joint List MKs held up signs that said “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” They were immediately ejected by ushers. Holding up signs or other props in the Knesset is prohibited in all plenary sessions, and when a foreign dignitary speaks, there is a zero-tolerance policy against heckling.
Pence took the interruption in stride, praising Israel’s “vibrant democracy.”
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh tweeted that he was proud to lead his party in a “strong, legitimate protest, against the Trump-Netanyahu regime’s exaltation of racism and hatred, who speak of peace solely as lip service.”
Pence’s speech was otherwise extremely well-received from both the opposition and the coalition.
The vice president concluded his speech with “God bless the Jewish people, God bless Israel, and God bless the USA.” Likud MK Yehudah Glick shouted: “God bless you, Mr. Vice President!”
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz called Pence’s speech “inspiring,” and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said “it will go down in the history books of both nations.”