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PREVIEW Protests and applause to greet Pence during Holy Land visit By Eliyahu Kamisher, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
US Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to land in Israel on Wednesday, two weeks after his boss upended decades of Washington policy towards the disputed city. While Israelis are embracing the move, Palestinians have shunned the administration.

Tel Aviv (dpa) - When US Vice President Mike Pence touches down in Israel on Wednesday he will be met by Palestinian calls for a "Day of Rage" and thunderous Israeli applause.

Washington‘s relations with the Palestinians have hit a low-point since President Donald Trump‘s move to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel‘s capital nearly two weeks ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, said that the dramatic policy shift was a "historic" moment on par with the founding of the Israeli state.

In the West Bank, Ashraf Khatib, a spokesman for the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, said that Pence would not be invited to meet with any Palestinian officials.

"Rather than coming with a message of hope, he is coming on a different message that promotes exclusively of one race, of dictating and promoting one narrative on others," Khatib told dpa.

Upon landing in Israel, Pence is scheduled to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site Jews can access for prayer.

But despite being a devout Evangelical Christian, Pence is not scheduled to visit Bethlehem, the West Bank town where the faithful believe Jesus was born, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, according to tradition.

Khatib said the omissions were more than likely deliberate given the fierce criticism from Palestinian officials and the Palestinian-Christian community.

"I think the response was very clear from the Palestinian leadership that he is not welcome as an official or in a personal capacity," he said.

Until Trump‘s decision, the US, along with the rest of the world, refrained from taking a stance on Jerusalem in an effort to remain neutral in peace negotiations between the two sides.

Palestinians saw the declaration as endorsing Israeli control of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the US is now disqualified from leading any peace process.

For many Israelis, the move was a recognition of reality - Israel‘s parliament, Supreme Court, and ministries all reside in Jerusalem - and an acknowledgement of the the city‘s Jewish history.

"Thank you, Mr President!" read the front page of Israel‘s most widely read newspaper Israel Hayom, the day after Trump‘s televised announcement.

Israel occupied the eastern half of Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and later annexed the territory in a move that was not internationally recognized.

Over 300,000 Palestinian residents live in East Jerusalem, which is home to holy sites for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

"We cannot change the status of Jerusalem unilaterally, because there are two peoples and three religion here," said Father Jamal Khader, who oversees a Catholic congregation of 500 families in Ramallah.

"Our God is a God for everyone," he said.

Trump‘s televised Jerusalem declaration nearly two weeks ago sparked protests and violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security services. Scores of Palestinians have been injured in clashes and eight Palestinians - including two Hamas militants and a Palestinian attacker - have died during the unrest following the US move.

Abbas‘ Fatah party has called for renewed protests in a "Day of Rage" on Wednesday and Friday, which are likely to trigger more clashes.

On Thursday, Pence is scheduled to address the Israeli parliament, where he will likely receive resounding applause from Israel‘s lawmakers, except for the Arab members, who have boycotted the speech in protest.

The vice president will reiterate Trump‘s Jerusalem recognition and his stated desire to achieve and Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, a senior White House official told press.

But according to Ghassan Khatib, professor of Arab studies at Birzeit University in Ramallah, Pence‘s visit will do little to quell Palestinian discontent.

"I don‘t think people on our side are waiting to hear Pence, because we already know what he is going to say," said Khatib.


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Tel Aviv-Jaffa

(20.01.2018 19:51)

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