US Vice President postpones trip to Middle East until January
A tax system overhaul is being given as the reason why the VP will be staying in the US
US Vice President Mike Pence trip to the Middle East has been rescheduled at short notice. His trip will be delayed until next month.
The itinerary had already seen several cancellations following Washington’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but the White House attributed the rescheduling for domestic reasons.
Mr Pence was scheduled to leave tonight to Egypt then on to Israel where he was planning to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as address the Kenneset.
But just a few hours ahead of departure, the White House announced that the Vice President would no longer be travelling to the Middle East at this time.
Officials denied that Mr Pence's decision was motivated by a wave of deadly protests in the wake of Trump's deeply controversial decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Mr Pence’s spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said the trip would happen in January and said they delay was due to the tax vote in the Senate this week.
“The largest tax cut in American history is a landmark accomplishment for President Trump and a relief to millions of hardworking Americans...the Vice President is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line. The Vice President looks forward to travelling to Egypt and Israel in January” Ms Farah said in a statement.
“The tax vote is still in very good shape, but we don’t want to take any chances,” a White House official said.
The new date for the trip is January 14th, according to CNN.
Mr Pence’s original itinerary when the trip was planned last month was to meet Christian and Muslim leaders in the region. That plan was disrupted by the uproar over the Jerusalem decision.
Egypt’s Coptic Church cancelled a meeting between Mr Pence and Pope Tawadros II following the Jerusalem announcement. Last week, Israeli media reported that the custodian of one of the holiest sites in Christianity had refused to welcome Mr Pence to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
“It has come to our attention that vice president Pence intends to make an official visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and asked me to receive him officially,” Adeeb Jowdeh Al Husseini wrote in a letter, according to Israel's Channel 2.
“I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American vice president at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and I will not be physically in church during his visit."
The grand mufti of Al Azhar in Cairo, Ahmed Al Tayyeb, also cancelled a meeting with Mr Pence.
The Palestinian leadership has also snubbed Mr Pence over the US decision, and it remains unclear if the delay will change the abbreviated itinerary in January.
Updated: December 19, 2017 07:30 AM