Pence delays Middle East trip in case vote needed on tax legislation

Pence delays Israel trip over GOP tax bill

US Vice President Mike Pence has delayed his upcoming visit to Israel by several days due to the Congressional vote on tax reforms, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence will not be permitted to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem when he visits the Middle East next month, as a result of the Trump administration's decision to recognize the city as Israel's capitol, according to the man who holds the keys to the building.

Pence is now scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday.

Palestinian officials cancelled a meeting with Pence in the West Bank days after the decision by President Donald Trump last week to move the USA embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The Republicans are hoping that the final votes will be held next week.

The officials said Pence's trip will be abbreviated after Palestinian officials and leading Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt refused to meet with him during his trip to the region.

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The White House then warned that cancelling the meeting in the West Bank would be "counterproductive", but Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to shun Pence following Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Pence will arrive in Israel later Wednesday for a visit to the Western Wall.

The stand-off between the Palestinians and the U.S. continued yesterday with Abbas declaring he no longer recognised the United States as a partner in peace, moments after the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation recognised East Jerusalem as Palestine's capital.

Prior to Trump's announcement, several Christian churches in Jerusalem joined the worldwide community in urging the president not to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

On Wednesday, the custodian of the key to one of the holiest sites in Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also said he would not welcome Pence to Jerusalem's Old City, though he added he knows of no specific plans for Pence to visit the Church. He also called on other church leaders in Jerusalem to turn Pence away. The Israeli army responded by targeting what it described as three military facilities in Gaza used as training and weapons storage sites by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza.

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