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Netanyahu slams Arab-Israeli lawmakers’ plan to boycott Pence speech

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington DC, Feburary 16, 2017
Avi Ohayun/GPO
Israel has deployed thousands of police reinforcements to secure Pence's visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday slammed as “a disgrace” Arab-Israeli lawmakers’ plan to boycott US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech in protest of Washington’s backing of Israel’s claim over the disputed city of Jerusalem.

Pence is set to touch down in Israel on Sunday evening on the final leg of a three-country tour of the Middle East delayed from December amid fury over US President Donald Trump’s controversial change in policy towards Jerusalem.

Ahead of his arrival, Arab-Israeli lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List faction said that they would boycott Pence’s planned speech at the Knesset on Monday in protest of the decision.

Announcing the decision to go through with an earlier promise to snub the address, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh dismissed Pence as a “dangerous man with a messianic vision that includes the destruction of the entire region.”

Ahmad Gharabli (AFP/File)

Odeh echoed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ dismissal of the US as an appropriate mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process following the decision, and attacked Trump as a “political pyromaniac” and a “racist”.

Speaking at the opening of a weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said see considered it “a disgrace that MKs [Members of Knesset] intend to boycott this important visit in the Knesset and even want to disrupt it. We will all be there and share the great honor that he deserves.”

Calling Pence a “great friend of the State of Israel”, Netanyahu said he would discuss during talks with the US Vice President on Monday “the efforts of the Trump government to curb Iranian aggression and the Iranian nuclear program, and of course promote peace and security.”

“Those who truly aspire to these goals know that there is no substitute for the leadership of the United States,” Netanyahu said.

While the deadly protests that erupted in the Palestinian territories at the time of Trump’s declaration have subsided, Israel deployed thousands of police reinforcements to secure the US Vice President’s visit.

AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi

Police said in a statement that security preparations have been completed, adding that they involved the cooperation of Israel’s Border Police, counter-terror units and US security services.

“The security operation includes thousands of policemen and officers carrying out security measures during the vice president’s visit and police units will be in all areas where the vice president will be visiting,” the statement said.

Pence -- himself a devout Christian -- will also visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites of Judaism in Jerusalem's Old City, and pay his respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in the city.

Pence will arrive in Israel after visiting Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel and key players if US mediators ever manage to get a revived Israeli-Palestinian peace process off the ground, as Trump says he wants.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

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