(JTA) –Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by no later than the end of the year, during an address to Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. Pence also called the Iran nuclear deal a “disaster” and said that “the United States of America will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement.” The Jan. 22 address was the first time a U.S. vice president has addressed the Knesset. As he began to speak, Arab-Israeli lawmakers from the Joint Arab List party began waving signs protesting the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, leading to their expulsion from the Knesset chamber.
Pence called the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “in the best interest” of peace saying that “fact is the only basis for peace.” He stressed that such recognition does not change the status quo arrangements on holy sites in the city and that the U.S. has not taken a position on final status issues such as borders. He reaffirmed that “if both sides agree, the United States of America will support a two-state solution.” Pence vowed that the United States would band together with Israel to fight Iran, and said that the United States would never allow Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon. “Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed, President Trump has said the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately,” he said.
Pence cited passages from the Bible and alluded to Biblical history, as well as the parallels between the founding of the United States and Israel, many times during his half-hour long address. He praised Israel for returning “to the land which your fathers possessed,” and noted that all major religions claim Abraham as a forefather. In talking about Israel’s 70th independence celebrations, Pence recited the Shehechiyanu prayer in broken Hebrew, earning him one of at least a dozen standing ovations from the lawmakers. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer and U.S. Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt were in the Knesset chamber for the speech. Prior to his speech to the Knesset, Pence met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Netanyahu thanked Pence and President Trump for their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.