Mike Pence delays Israel, Egypt trip as tax vote nears

A protester sits in a chair in front of a barricade during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 1

Vice President Mike Pence's office on Monday announced it had been chose to delay his trip to the Middle East scheduled for Tuesday, to keep him available to cast the tie breaking vote at the Senate on the GOP tax reform bill.

Pence is expected to visit the disputed "Al-Buraq Wall" in Jerusalem, an area Jews call the "Wailing Wall", claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.

Earlier, Pence delayed his visit to Israel and Palestine this past Thursday after Palestinian officials cancelled plans to meet him, according to Israeli media reports.

Pence's office said Monday the trip was being delayed so he can stay in Washington until votes on the tax cut legislation are completed.

Pence is now expected to leave for Egypt, Israel and potentially additional countries in the region the week of January 14, senior White House officials said, though the revised trip is still being planned.

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

Then Trump announced on December 6 that his administration had chose to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, breaking with decades of USA policy and drawing sharp criticism from allies and adversaries. Abbas' diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said Abbas would not meet with Pence "because the USA has crossed red lines" with its decision on Jerusalem.

Additionally, there have been widespread protests in the Arab world following the decision.

Palestinian officials have pressured local church leaders to reject Pence's visit and follow the example of the Egyptian Coptic Church whose pope has refused to meet the usa vice president due to the decision.

Republican Senator John McCain is at home battling brain cancer and will miss the vote, while Thad Cochran missed votes last week, also for health issues.

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