US Vice President Pence delays visit to Israel - Knesset

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US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Israel has been delayed by several days due to Congressional votes on tax reform, The Times of Israel confirmed on Thursday.

The vote is expected to happen early next week, and Pence's presence could be crucial. With Republicans holding a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate - and some key Republican senators still uncommitted - Pence holds the tiebreaking vote in the event of an even split.

When Vice President Mike Pence travels to the Middle East next week, there is one message that the Trump administration wants to convey loud and clear: Egypt continues to be an "incredibly important" partner in the region. Egypt's Coptic Christian Church has also said it would not meet with Pence, citing the United States' decisison "at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people". "This is an expression of my condemnation of President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel".

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"It's unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region", Jarrod Agen, Pence's deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. But Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of MS have missed votes recently because of health issues. The vice president does not plan to meet with any Christian groups during the trip or to visit the West Bank city of Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity.

The Knesset confirmed the postponement, stating that Pence would instead arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Pence is scheduled to be in Cairo on Wednesday for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a close ally of Trump's. The vice president will then meet Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, deliver an address to the Knesset and later dine with Netanyahu.

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The status of Jerusalem has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Trump's announcement last week was widely perceived as taking the side of Israel.

That broke with decades of USA policy and worldwide consensus that viewed the holy city's political status should be decided up for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, who both claim the city as their capital.

A senior administration official said Friday that they hope the vice president's trip will end the chapter of emotional backlash to the president's decision and start a new chapter, refocusing on priorities like fighting terrorism. Kushner and other top Trump aides have traveled to the region to meet with Palestinians, Israelis and officials from Arab nations.

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