Photo Credit: US Gov. / Office of Vice President Mike Pence / Twitter
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at Al Etehadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo, Jan. 20, 2018

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters after his meeting Saturday with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that the Trump administration has not changed its position on Jerusalem.

Contrary to propaganda being spewed by the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. position remains neutral: the United States, Pence said, is committed to preserving the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and has reached no final conclusion about boundaries for the city, nor for the two parties involved.

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“We heard President El-Sisi out,” Pence told reporters at the news conference after the meeting. The vice president described the Egyptian leader’s contentions as “a disagreement between friends” and said he told El-Sisi the Trump administration would support a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian Authority “if both parties agree,” a formula that has been the basis for peace since the start of the current administration.

“My perception was that he was encouraged by that message.”

Pence also said he raised U.S. concerns about religious freedom in Egypt as well, and said he was assured by El-Sisi that he wants to promote religious diversity in the country, according to the LA Times.

A statement from El-Sisi’s office said the president “noted that a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will only come through negotiations based on a two-state solution, and Egypt would spare no effort to support this,” Reuters reported.

At least a dozen American reporters who accompanied Pence from Washington DC were blocked by security from leaving the bus to enter the Al Etehadiya Presidential Palace when Pence arrived for his meeting with El-Sisi.

It took 90 minutes for Pence’s aides to negotiate with presidential security personnel before the media gaggle was allowed to leave the bus and enter the palace, albeit with a tight security escort.

After the meeting Pence traveled to Amman, where he was scheduled to meet with King Abdullah II, a close U.S. ally.

On Sunday evening Pence travels to Israel, where he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and a host of Israeli officials as well as with U.S. troops stationed in the area.

Pence will also speak before Israel’s Knesset on Monday and meet with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. In addition, he’ll visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum and on Tuesday, he’ll go to the Western Wall before returning to the United States on Tuesday afternoon.

Pence is not expected to travel at all to the Palestinian Authority, nor is he scheduled to meet with any Palestinian Authority officials. A statement from the office of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas made it abundantly clear that Pence was “not welcome” in response to President Donald Trump’s announced recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his order to prepare to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – an effort that could take at least until 2019, if not longer.

The “go away” message was further reinforced with added heaps of coals following the U.S. partial suspension of funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency last week; UNRWA provides aid solely to those who fled the 1948 war waged against Israel by her surrounding Arab neighbors, and their millions of descendants – the only worldwide group ever to be declared eternal refugees by the United Nations.

 

 

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.