Photodisc/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — Two days before Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to touch down in Tel Aviv, Palestinian leaders have called for another day of rage and more rockets have been launched from Gaza towards Israel.
The high profile visit comes just two weeks after President Trump announced that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On Monday at the U.N., the U.S. stood alone against fourteen countries and vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on the U.S. to rescind its Dec. 6 announcement.
“The U.S. will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told the security council.
“What we have witnessed here today in the Security Council is an insult,” she added, “and it won’t be forgotten. It’s one more example of the U.N. doing more harm than good in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour, strongly condemned the American veto.
“With this veto, the U.S. has missed an opportunity to rectify it’s illegal decision of Dec. 6th, remaining on the wrong side of history,” he said Monday. “We reiterate that this decision has no legal effect on the status of Jerusalem.”
“A veto cannot negate adopted resolutions,” he added. “No veto in the past has been able to do so, and no veto in this era ever will either.”
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took to Twitter immediately, thanking Ambassador Haley.
Clashes expected during Pence visit
Since Dec. 6, the day President Trump announced the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at least 14 rockets have been fired from Gaza and crossed into Israel, according to the Israeli military. This represents the most concentrated period of rocket fire since the 2014 Gaza war with Israel.
The Israeli military said that its Iron Dome defense system intercepted four of those rockets.
Sources in Gaza said additional rockets landed inside the strip, never crossing the border. The Israeli military has not provided those counts.
Pence is scheduled to travel to Egypt tomorrow to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and then fly to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, when he is expected to immediately visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The mission of his trip appears to have changed from his previous statements. At the end of October, while announcing his upcoming trip, Pence said “One of the messages that I will bring on the president’s behalf to leaders across the region is that now is the time to bring an end to the persecution of Christians and all religious minorities.”
However, Pence is not scheduled to meet with any Christians now. Days after the announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Egypt’s Coptic Church leader Pope Tawadros II announced that he refused to meet with Pence during his visit Tuesday. And his planned trip to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, Jesus’ birth place, has also been scrapped.
The Vice President’s itinerary does not include a trip to the West Bank at all. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he won’t meet with Pence in protest of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.
U.S. hopes for a new chapter
Briefing reporters over the weekend, a senior Trump administration official said they hoped Pence’s trip would end this chapter dominated by negative reactions and begin a clean new chapter focused on the peace process. The senior administration official lamented the canceled meetings, but said the U.S. would be ready whenever the Palestinians said they were, as well.
Palestinians leaders have continued to express their strong opposition to Trump’s announcement.
“The continuation of this American policy, whether the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moving the American embassy or such statements, by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation,” Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to President Abbas, said over the weekend.
Rdeneh’s statement was released in response to a comment about the Western Wall, made by a senior administration official on Friday while briefing reporters ahead of Pence’s trip.
“We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not part of Israel,” the official said.
“For us, this is unacceptable,” Abu Rdeneh added, “We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.”
Up until Dec. 6, neither the international community, nor any U.S. administration has officially recognized Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem’s eastern half, where the Western Wall and other holy sites are located in Jerusalem’s Old City. For this reason, U.S. officials have always refused to say explicitly that the wall is part of Israel.
Speaking last week, Abbas said he had been on board to discuss a “deal of our times” and “instead we got the slap of our times.”
“The United States has chosen to lose its qualification as a mediator,” he added. “We will no longer accept that it has a role in the political process.”
Last Friday was the deadliest day of protests since Trump’s announcement. More than 400 Palestinians were injured around Jerusalem, in Gaza and across the West Bank while clashing with Israeli forces, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, two in the West Bank and two in Gaza, including one paraplegic activist that had lost his legs due to an Israeli airstrike the Gaza war back in 2009, according to the ministry.
Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, 29, was killed by Israeli forces during protests on the border fence and thousands turned out to his funeral on Saturday. Video and photos shot before his death on Friday, show the man in the wheel chair carrying a slingshot, waving a Palestinian flag and then later, crawling towards the border fence with the flag. The photos after his death clearly appear to show he was shot in the head.
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