Pence expected to make first state visit to Western Wall

VP likely to be escorted to Western Wall by senior Israeli official, marking first time senior US official makes state visit to OId City.

David Rosenberg , | updated: 12:18 PM

Mike Pence and Binyamin Netanyahu
Mike Pence and Binyamin Netanyahu
Government Press Office

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to make the first formal state visit by a senior US official to the Western Wall in Jerusalem during his trip to Israel later this week, exactly three weeks after President Donald Trump declared that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the State Department to begin relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump’s announcement drew condemnation from the Palestinian Authority, which declared that it would not welcome Vice President Pence in light of the new US position on Jerusalem.

“In the name of Fatah I say that we will not welcome Trump’s deputy in the Palestinian Territories. He asked to meet (Abbas) on the 19th of this month in Bethlehem, such a meeting will not take place,” senior Fatah party member Jibril Rajoub said.

The PA later urged local Arabs to take to the streets to protest Pence’s visit, and called on Arab Christians not to welcome the Vice President at local churches.

"We call for angry protests at the entrances to Jerusalem and in its Old City to coincide with the visit on Wednesday of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and to protest against Trump's decision," Fatah said in a statement quoted by AFP.

The trip, which was originally scheduled to begin on Sunday, was delayed to Wednesday, as Senate Republicans gear up for a vote on a massive tax reform bill which may require the Vice President’s tie-breaking vote.

Vice President Pence is slated to speak at the Knesset on Thursday, the first appearance by a senior US official at the Israeli legislature since then-President George W. Bush spoke there in 2008 at an event marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. MKs from the Arab Joint List party have indicated they will boycott Pence’s address.

On Wednesday, Pence is scheduled to visit the Western Wall immediately after his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. The Vice President is expected to visit the holy site with a senior Israeli escort – possibly a minister – making it the first state of the Old City visit by a senior US official.

In May, President Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, but was escorted by family, rather than a senior Israeli official.

Pence will meet with Prime Minister Thursday morning, and dine with the Prime Minister and his family Thursday night, though Netanyahu is not expected to be present during Pence’s Western Wall visit on Wednesday.

On Friday, Pence is scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem.