Pence postpones Mideast trip to mid-January, citing tax bill

Pence postpones Mideast trip to mid-January, citing tax bill
Pence postpones Mideast trip to mid-January, citing tax bill

21 December, 2017

US Vice President Mike Pence has delayed a visit to the Middle East for a second time, the White House said Monday, to focus on the tax vote on Capitol Hill.

Pence, who was originally scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday and then rescheduled to leave on Tuesday for a brief visit in Egypt before arriving in Israel for a multi-day trip, will not be making the trip to the Middle East until he sees "the tax cut through to the finish line".

"The largest tax cut in American history is a landmark accomplishment for President [Donald] Trump and a relief to millions of hardworking Americans", Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence's office said in a statement.

The schedule shift follows President Donald Trump's December 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital that prompted Palestinian officials and leading Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt to refuse to meet with Pence, forcing him to adjust his schedule.

Republicans are confident they will pass the tax overhaul, but Pence will be around in case he needs to break a tie in the Senate.

Trump said he had made a decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital to keep a campaign promise, noting that several of his predecessors had vowed to do so, but never did.

The announcement comes amid outrage over the U.S. move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, though officials say the delay is not due to the Jerusalem decision.

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A senior Trump administration official, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, said Pence had already pushed back the trip by a couple of days because of the anticipated vote on the tax bill.

But after Trump's decision earlier this month on Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority declined the meeting.

Pence was expected to travel to Egypt on Wednesday to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi before travelling to Israel.

"There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine", Abbas' diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khaldi said on Saturday.

Egypt's Coptic Church cancelled a meeting between Mr Pence and Pope Tawadros II following the Jerusalem announcement.

Palestinians have also planned to hold mass protests in the West Bank against the United States during Pence's visit.

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