U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on his final stop in Israel today (Tues. Jan. 23) before heading to the airport to return to Washington DC.
The visit is taking place amid tightened security.
Tensions in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza — already high — rose Monday night with the Fatah faction urging disturbances at “friction points” following the vice president’s historic speech to the Knesset earlier in the day. In his address, Pence freely referred to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and told Israeli lawmakers the U.S. Embassy would relocate from Tel Aviv to open in the city by the end of next year.
The vice president began his final day in Israel at the official presidential residence in Jerusalem in a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin.
On Monday night, Rivlin briefly addressed the relocation of the embassy in an address to Israeli ambassadors and diplomatic mission chiefs from around the world.
“We must move from being on the defensive to taking the initiative, and clearly call on the nations of the world to stop boycotting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Seventy years have passed, this boycott has no justification, and our allies must join the United States,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to join Pence for a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum at noon, where he will lay a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance.
But it is the U.S. vice president’s scheduled visit to the Western Wall in a section of Jerusalem that the Palestinian Authority covets, and in fact insists that Israel hand over for a state of its own, that has set Ramallah on edge, prompting the leading Fatah faction – also headed by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas – to call for a general strike.
All public sector elements are closed except for health services, with citizens having been told to “gather” at friction points – a euphemism for creating disturbances that often turn violent, aimed at Israeli Defense Forces and other security personnel.