Joint List MKs to Boycott Today’s Knesset Address by US VP Pence

The 13 MKs of the Joint List will not attend the address to be delivered today (Monday, January 22) before the Knesset by US Vice President Mike Pence, faction Chairman Hadash MK Ayman Odeh announced Saturday on Twitter. In a tweet, Odeh called Pence dangerous because of his “messianic vision that includes the destruction of the entire region” and said his entire parliamentary bloc, which holds 13 seats in the Knesset, will shun Pence’s address. In the tweet, he further lambasted Donald Trump as a “racist” and “political pyromaniac”.

United States Vice President Mike Pence with American military personnel

United States Vice President Mike Pence with American military personnel (Photo: Facebook)

Odeh had previously announced that Joint List MKs will not attend Pence’s speech when the latter’s visit was initially planned for December, but was postponed because of the Palestinian protests that erupted following Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pence is thought to have played a key role in the works that led to the Trump declaration in which the US President recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, specifically because of the VP’s large support base among pro-Israeli evangelical Christians.

In is original statement in which he declared the Joint List will boycott the Pence speech, Odeh said he wanted “to send a clear message to the US administration and the world that there are citizens here who strongly oppose Trump’s declaration and to clarify that the US has lost its place as the exclusive mediator of negotiations.” Odeh’s statement also noted that “West Jerusalem will be recognized as Israel’s capital by the whole world as soon as the government of Israel recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.”

Even though Israel has fully controlled the city since the occupation of East Jerusalem in June1967, and has moved most of its government offices there, no country has moved its embassy from Tel Aviv or has accepted Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, until last month when US President Trump did so. Back in June of last year, Trump had in fact signed a six-month waiver, which once again delayed the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem, an executive prerogative which has been renewed by US presidents twice yearly since 1995 when the US Congress voted in favor of the move.

The American president’s recognition statement made on December 6 sparked a wave of outrage and demonstrations throughout the Arab world, in the Palestinian territories, and among Arab citizens of Israel. In the Knesset, Joint List MKs confronted Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in a harsh debate in the wake of Trump’s recognition statement, after Liberman dubbed the MKs “war criminals.”

All Zionist political parties in the Knesset have attacked the Joint List for its decision to boycott Pence’s speech. Meretz MK Esawi Frej, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that he would not boycott the US Vice President’s appearance before the Knesset. “I will sit there and wait to see what he says,” Frej said. “If he says normal things, I’ll stay. If he says nonsense, I’ll get up and leave.”

The Palestinian leadership has also refused to meet with Pence. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israeli Channel 1 that if the Americans renounce their recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, they will be willing to stop their boycott of the Trump administration.

Related: Joint List MKs to Skip Pence’s Knesset Speech over Jerusalem