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Vice President Pence Stops In Israel On His Middle East Tour


Let's go to the Middle East now. That's where Vice President Mike Pence has been meeting with regional leaders. He was in Egypt and Jordan over the weekend. This morning, he is in Jerusalem. Pence has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he will not be meeting with any Palestinians. They have refused to meet with the U.S. vice president in protest of President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. We're joined now by NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem.

Hey, Daniel.


MARTIN: Clearly, we are seeing the real-world effects of President Trump's choice to recognize Israel - to recognize Jerusalem, rather, as the capital of Israel.

ESTRIN: Right. Actually, White House officials had said at first that they weren't expecting the Jerusalem decision to be the centerpiece of the vice president's trip. But Jerusalem has been front and center. The king of Jordan called on the U.S. to rebuild trust and confidence in the possibility of peace. And so Pence has tried to explain the Jerusalem declaration on his trip. Today he said - by recognizing what he called the obvious, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, then that creates an opportunity to, quote, "move on" - to move on to issues that need to be negotiated at the peace table. Now, the Palestinians have no interest in moving on.

MARTIN: Right.

ESTRIN: They feel their claims to Jerusalem have been brushed aside here. And so now the Palestinian leader is refusing any U.S.-led peace process. And the Palestinians are refusing to meet with Pence, too.

MARTIN: Pence has, though, met with Israeli leaders, Netanyahu among them. Do you know what's come out of those?

ESTRIN: Well, Pence was greeted first by an Israeli honor guard that played the American and Israeli national anthems. And Pence was grinning that whole time. Afterwards, Pence met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who greeted him very warmly.

And when Pence arrived at his hotel, he was greeted by signs put up by an evangelical organization in Jerusalem. The signs say, you are a true friend of Zion. Pence is an ardent supporter of Israel. He is a devout Christian. He was one of the biggest advocates pushing Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

MARTIN: So he's going to give the speech today - Pence is - at the Israeli parliament. We're going to hear more the same, presumably, a very pro-Israel point of view in this moment.

ESTRIN: Yes. He's going to be reaffirming the U.S. declaration that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. But he also says he's going to be standing before the parliament and saying that if both Israelis and Palestinians agree, that the Trump administration will support creating an independent Palestinian state next to Israel, which is a vision that many in the Israeli government today actually reject. So we will have to see how Israeli lawmakers react to that. We know already that Arab lawmakers in Israel's parliament are boycotting Pence's speech.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting this morning from Jerusalem.

Thanks so much, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.