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VP Pence Says U.S. Embassy In Jerusalem Will Open By End Of 2019


Vice President Mike Pence has weighed in on the resolution of the government shutdown as he travels in the Middle East. He's in Jerusalem today, where he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and addressed the Israeli parliament. NPR's Tamara Keith is traveling with Pence, and she's with us now. Hey, Tam.


MCEVERS: So let's start with the shutdown. What did Pence have to say about it?

KEITH: So I want to start by saying that over the years, American politicians traveling overseas have limited their discussions of domestic U.S. politics, or they've tried to keep partisanship to a minimum. And of course there are exceptions to this, and Vice President Pence's remarks tonight at the prime minister's residence were most definitely in that exception category. They were partisan.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We welcome the news that thanks to the firm stand taken by President Trump and House and Senate Republicans, the government shutdown in Washington, D.C., is coming to an end.


PENCE: Now, the American people know what happened here. A minority in the United States Senate chose to shut down the government, denying our soldiers benefits and wages that they earned, jeopardizing government services just to advance an issue pertaining to illegal immigration. But the Schumer shutdown failed.

KEITH: This isn't the first time that Pence has gone after democrats during this trip. Yesterday at a military installation near the Syrian border, with U.S. troops standing behind him, Pence accused Democrats of politicizing military pay. The Democrats were blocked when they tried to bring up legislation to make sure that pay continued uninterrupted during the shutdown. All of that of course is a moot point now.

MCEVERS: Right. That's right. So now let's talk about the reason that Pence is in Jerusalem. He spoke to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, today. And I understand he made some news. Let's listen.


PENCE: In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the United States embassy in Jerusalem, and that United States embassy will open before the end of next year.


MCEVERS: OK, so we hear some applause there, but how was this received?

KEITH: Well, in the Arab world, this has been highly controversial. But in Jerusalem - there in the Israeli legislature, Pence got an extended standing ovation. Now, there was one section of the parliament chamber where there was no one standing or sitting, for that matter, and that's because at the very top of Pence's remarks, a number of Arab Israeli lawmakers stood in protest. They had signs that said Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. And they were quite rapidly escorted out of the room in sort of a rough way.

President Trump's decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been praised up and down basically everywhere Pence went today. But as I said, it is controversial because Palestinians also have a claim on the city. And in Pence's first two stops on this Middle East tour, Egypt and Jordan, he got an earful of concern about that move.

MCEVERS: So where does this all leave the peace process? Is Pence planning to meet any Palestinians while he's there?

KEITH: No. Vice President Pence has said repeatedly that he would like to meet with Palestinians while he's here, but they aren't really interested in meeting with him. And really his message on this whole trip has been, yes, President Trump has decided to move this embassy but that they still want to move forward with the peace process, that this does not settle any final status issues, any specific boundaries, any sovereignty issues - none of that. And they would still support a two-state solution if that's what the Israelis and the Palestinians would support. But there is no peace process right now as we speak.

MCEVERS: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith traveling with Vice President Mike Pence, who's in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF HARD PROOF'S "BREAK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.