United States vice president postpones visit, but envoy still coming

In Middle East Pence must address realities of Iranian encroachment

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

Pence, who was originally scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday and then rescheduled to leave on Tuesday for a brief visit in Egypt before arriving in Israel for a multi-day trip, will not be making the trip to the Middle East until he sees "the tax cut through to the finish line". Therefore, to get the most out of the trip, the Vice President will now be traveling in mid-January.

Officials denied that Pence's decision was motivated by a wave of deadly protests in the wake of Trump's deeply controversial decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Pence will instead travel to the Middle East during the week of January 14 so he can be in the Senate for Tuesday's expected tax vote.

The announcement comes amid outrage over the United States move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, though officials say the delay is not due to the Jerusalem decision.

But after Trump's decision earlier this month on Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority declined the meeting.

A senior White House official said on Wednesday that Abbas' comments on the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital is the kind of rhetoric "that has prevented peace for decades".

"There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine", Abbas' diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khaldi said on Saturday. The Republicans' already thin margin in the Senate became even more precarious when McCain, who is battling brain cancer, was hospitalized for side effects of his treatment.

Pence had also planned to address the Knesset, visit the Western Wall and meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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

The change of plans comes days after Palestinian officials cancelled their meeting with Pence in the West Bank following Trump's decision last week to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The vice president wanted to make sure that he was in place to break a tie if it were necessary, the official said.

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