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Arab lawmakers protest Pence speech, get removed from the Knesset

Le Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu applaudit le vice-président américain Mike Pence au Parlement israélien à Jérusalem, le 22 janvier 2018
Ariel Schalit (POOL/AFP)
After promising boycott of speech, Palestinian MKs show 'Jerusalem capital of Palestine' signs at the Knesset

Arab Israeli lawmakers were forced out of the Knesset during the speech by American Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, after they wielded sings reading "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."

Members of the predominantly Arab "Joint List" faction had initially announced they would boycott the Pence speech by absenting themselves from the plenum. 

Eventually, a number of Joint List parliamentarians turned up to the speech brandishing banners reading "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."

Ushers and other MKs could be seen ripping off the banners before forcing the parliamentarians out of the plenary.

Joint List lawmaker Jamal Zahalka charged that the ushers used excessive force.

Joint List Ayman Odeh leader confirmed on Saturday he intended to boycott US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Israeli parliament as part of the Middle East tour he kicked off in Cairo on Saturday.

In a tweet, Odeh called Pence "dangerous" because of his "messianic vision that includes the destruction of the entire region" and said his whole party, which holds 13 seats in the Knesset, will shun Pence's address.

In the tweet, he further lambasted Donald Trump as a "racist" and "political pyromaniac."

Odeh had previously promised he would not attend, but then Pence’s visit was postponed leading to speculation over whether fall-out over the Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was behind the rescheduling of the trip.

Pence’s spokespeople have been adamant that the voting of tax-reform bills at the American Congress in Washington was the reason of delay in the Middle East visit, not the series of cancellations by locals stakeholders in protest of the Trump December speech on Jerusalem.

Pence is is thought to have played a key role in the works that led to the Trump declaration in which the US President recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, specifically because of his support base of of pro-Israeli evangelicals.

AP Photo/Dan Balilty

In the original statement where he declared the Joint List will boycott the Pence speech, Odeh said he wanted “to send a clear message to the US administration and the world that there are citizens here who strongly oppose Trump’s declaration and to clarify that the US has lost its place as the exclusive mediator of negotiations.”

"West Jerusalem will be recognized as Israel’s capital by the whole world as soon as the government of Israel recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state," the statement also read.

Originally envisaged as an area to be kept under international control in the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Jerusalem has remained contested between Israel and its Arab neighbors ever since.

Even though Israel has fully controlled the city since 1967, and moved most of its government institutions there, no country has moved its embassy from Tel-Aviv or has accepted to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital.

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by Trump sparked a wave of outrage in the Arab world, even though he still signed a six-months waiver which has delayed the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem since a 1995 Congress vote in favor of the move.

Arab-Israeli citizens have also demonstrated against the Trump speech, and Joint List MKs confronted Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in a harsh debate at the Knesset after he called them "war criminals."


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