'Valuable progress' already made toward Mideast peace, Pence says

In Independence Day message vice president says Trump seriously considering moving embassy to Jerusalem

Vice President Mike Pence gives a statement after a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 20, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Vice President Mike Pence gives a statement after a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 20, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration has already reconstituted the Middle East peace process by fostering "goodwill" amongst Israelis and Palestinians, US Vice President Mike Pence said at an Israeli Independence Day reception held at the White House on Tuesday.
Reiterating the president's "personal commitment to resolving the Israeli and Palestinian conflict," Pence said the new administration had found a way to pursue peace whilst simultaneously devoting itself to securing the Jewish state.
"Even now, we’re making valuable progress toward the noble goal of peace," Pence said. "Thanks to the president’s tireless leadership, momentum is building and goodwill is growing. And that while there will undoubtedly have to be compromises, you can rest assured President Donald Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel– not now, not ever."
Pence said that Trump's appointment of Friedman and of US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley were examples of his "unapologetic" commitment to Israel. So, too, is his consideration of a plan to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem– a policy initiative he is seriously considering "as we speak," Pence told the crowd.
Coverage of the event starts at 42:12
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to visit the White House on Wednesday.
Pence said he called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wish him a "happy Independence Day" before the event.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) attended the White House reception, which brought together several leaders of the Jewish American community as well as Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer.
Pence: Trump seriously considering moving US embassy to Jerusalem (credit: REUTERS)
Executive Director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center Nathan Diament, who was at the event called it “historic in the literal sense.”
“No one was able to think of a previous occasion in which the White House hosted a reception specifically in honor of Yom Haatzmaut,” he told the Post. “That says something special about the United States and about the US- Israel relationship.”
”Certainly for those of us in the room who are religious Zionists, with the talk on the part of the Vice President and Senator Hatch about [...] their great support for Israel is incredibly encouraging and affirming,” he added.
Regarding Vice President Pence’s remarks about the US embassy move to Jerusalem, Diament said that while the administration is seriously considering it, the subject will also depend on the conversation between Trump and Abbas on Wednesday.
“In a room full of Jewish people there isn’t really consensus,” he said. “But if there is any point of consensus, I think it would be that there is an expectation [among Jewish leaders] that President Trump and his administration will try to push ahead with President Abbas some ideas towards negotiations.”
President of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein, who has been a vocal supporter of the Trump administration and was in the room as well on Tuesday evening, praised the Vice President for his remarks.
“The speech couldn’t have been stronger if I wrote it myself,” he told the Post. “It was as strong a pro-Israel speech as any politician could ever make.”
Klein added that according to his sources in the Trump White House, where he has repeatedly said he has many “friends”, whether the President announces the embassy’s move to Jerusalem during a visit to Israel in May or later on, he is determined to carry out the campaign promise during his term.
Earlier last week, ZOA had released a statement about Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to Washington, saying the invitation was “undeserved”.
“Any leader who pays people to murder Jews, names schools and streets after Jew-killers, should not be invited to the White House until he changes that,” Klein reiterated on Tuesday.
“I am told that [President Trump] will surely raise the issue of changing the law that gives a salary and a pension to families of terrorists who kill Jews,” he added. “But they could have raised this issue in Ramallah, it didn’t have to be in the White House.”