Pence postpones Mideast trip to mid-January, citing tax bill

Originally, Pence had planned to leave Saturday for a almost week-long trip that included meetings with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Sissi, grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque and the pope of the Egyptian Coptic Church, who leads the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. "We have some senators who obviously can't make it there for the vote and the Vice President feels that it's important for him to be here for the largest tax cut in history".

Pence was originally scheduled to depart over the last weekend, but the trip was delayed until this week so that he could preside over the upcoming Senate vote on tax code changes.

Trump said he had made a decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital to keep a campaign promise, noting that several of his predecessors had vowed to do so, but never did.

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 decision sparked protests throughout the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.

"The tax vote is still in very good shape, but we don't want to take any chances whatsoever", said a senior administration official.

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"There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine", Abbas' diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khaldi said on Saturday. John McCain, R-Ariz., was returning to his home state for cancer treatment, leaving Republicans with only 51 votes for the tax bill.

Palestinians have also planned to hold mass protests in the West Bank against the U.S. during Pence's visit.

On December 9, the leader of Egypt's Coptic Christian faith, the largest Christian group in the Middle East, refused to meet Pence.

Trump's decision countered an global consensus that Jerusalem's status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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.

  • Megan Austin