Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that the United States would no longer certify the Iran nuclear deal, and said that President Trump has instructed the State Department to begin preparations for moving the American embassy in Israel, and said the embassy would open before the end of 2019.
Pence’s address to the Israeli Knesset made him the first senior official in a decade to speak before the Israeli parliament. The last US leader to address the Knesset was President George W. Bush, who spoke at the Knesset in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel’s establishment.
The Speech is available in it’s entirety by clicking here: Mike Pence speaks to Israeli Parliament
Pence, a long-time backer of the Jewish state, arrived in Israel aboard Air Force Two Sunday evening, kicking off a three-day visit to Israel – his first since he took office last January.
In a speech peppered with Biblical references, Holocaust imagery, fallen Israeli soldiers including Yoni Netanyahu, brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and a traditional Jewish blessing for thanksgiving uttered in halting Hebrew, Pence delivered a message of religious faith and the confluence of American and Israeli values as a foundation for the US – Israel relationship “as allies and cherished friends.”
“All who cherish freedom and seek a brighter future should cast their eyes here to this place and marvel what they behold,” Pence said.
As expected, the beginning of Pence’s speech was interrupted by members of the Joint List party, who were escorted from the Knesset plenum after brandishing signs criticizing Trump’s policy vis-à-vis Jerusalem. But the protest did little to derail an address that outlined a US policy that closely aligns with Israel’s security and international interests. He praised Israeli leaders for their willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians, and called on the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table.
At the same time, however, Pence took a veiled dig at former President Obama, referring to “radical Islamic terrorism” (a phrase that Obama administration officials strenuously avoided) before describing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, as “ill conceived” and a “disaster” that President Trump would no longer certify.
“The United States will never compromise the safety or security of the State of Israel… The Iran nuclear deal merely delays the day (that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons). and added that any peace deal with third parties would ensure Israel’s ability “to defend itself, by itself.
“I make a solemn promise to the people of Israel and the Middle East: The United States will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Pence said.
During his address, Pence vowed that the US would “never allow” the Tehran regime to possess nuclear weapons – a message meant not only to reassure Israeli leaders, but also Sunni Arab states across the Middle East concerned by President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to Iran.
In October, President Trump announced that he would not recertify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, setting in motion a process requiring Congress to either reinstate sanctions on Tehran, or alter the sanctions regime.
“Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed President Trump has said the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately,” Pence said
During his speech, the Vice President also touched on the planned relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem. While he gave no firm date or location for the new embassy, he stated that the move would be completed before the end of 2019.
“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem – and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year,” said Pence.