“We were asked if there’s a change in our position regarding Pence’s visit,” Joint Arab List chairman, lawmaker Ayman Odeh, wrote on Twitter. “He is a dangerous man with a messianic vision that includes the destruction of the entire region.
“He comes here as the emissary of a man who is even more dangerous,” Odeh wrote in reference to U.S. President Trump, who he called a “a political pyromaniac, a racist misogynist who cannot be allowed to be lead the way in our region.
“The entire Joint List will boycott his speech in the plenum,” Odeh wrote regarding Pence’s planned speech on Monday in the Knesset.
Ahmed Tibi, another lawmaker from the party, said they were boycotting Pence because “Trump’s speech on Jerusalem and Pence’s own positions, as Pence is one of those pushing for the U.S. to relocate the embassy [to Jerusalem] and because of his outrageous claim that they have taken Jerusalem off the table. This administration is part of the problem, not the solution.”
Pence embarked Saturday on a trip to the Middle East, despite a U.S. government shutdown. His spokeswoman explained that that Pence’s meetings with Egypt, Jordan and Israel are “integral to America’s national security and diplomatic objectives.”
Pence was originally supposed to arrive to the area in December, but the White House delayed his visit by a month as a result of the vote in Congress over the Republican tax plan. Over the last few days, rumors circulated that his trip might again be delayed once again because of the internal political crisis in Washington that led to the government shutdown on Saturday, but the White House made it clear that the trip would not be postponed.
Pence landed in Egypt on Saturday, and will then travel to Jordan. He is expected to arrive in Israel Sunday evening. He will then spend a day and a half in Israel, before flying back to the United States Tuesday afternoon. During his time in Israel, he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, visit the Western Wall and give a speech in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem.
The White House originally presented Pence’s trip as focused on supporting Christian communities in the Middle East. The trip was supposed to include a stop in Bethlehem and a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. However, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinians declared that Pence, who played an important role in the policy change, is “not welcome” in Bethlehem.
As a result, Pence will not meet any Palestinians during his visit – and according to an official schedule released by the Israeli government, there are no meetings planned with Christian leaders. A number of Christian leaders in the Middle East, including in Egypt, declared that they will refuse to meet with Pence because of the Trump administration’s “hostility” towards the Palestinians.
The schedule released by the Israeli government suggests that Pence’s visit to the Western Wall, which is located beyond the 1967 lines and therefore is not recognized by the world as part of Israel, will take place without the presence of any Israeli political leaders, just like the visit Trump made to the holy site in May. Pence will be accompanied only by the rabbi in charge of the site, and the media arrangements will be handled by the American embassy in Israel, not the Israeli government press office.