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

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

United State Vice President Mike Pence has postponed his controversial visit to the Middle East planned for this week but USA special peace envoy Jason Greenblatt is still coming, a White House official said on Monday. The vote has been scheduled for Tuesday, but could be delayed further as some Republican Senators are expected to be a no-show for health and other reasons.

US Vice President Mike Pence has postponed his visit to the Middle East to mid-January, announced the White House on Monday.

"The largest tax cut in American history is a landmark accomplishment for President [Donald] Trump and a relief to millions of hardworking Americans", Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence's office said in a statement. Pence is postponing his trip to Egypt and Israel until the middle of January, citing an upcoming vote in the Senate to overhaul the nation's tax system. Now that the vote could come either late Tuesday or early Wednesday, the official said they had chose to move the trip to the week of January 14 to have more time in the region and to possibly meet with more leaders.

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. The vice president's office had originally planned to leave on Saturday night for Israel but pushed back his departure because of the pending tax bill.

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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. In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which was originally a scheduled stop on Pence's tour, religious leaders turned off the city's Christmas tree lights earlier to protest the White House announcement.

Aside from the protests, Palestinian, Muslim and Coptic leaders had cancelled meetings with the vice president, who had already trimmed the trip by three days.

Pence was expected to travel to Egypt on Wednesday to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi before travelling to Israel. The vice president wanted to make sure that he was in place to break a tie if it were necessary, the official said. "We'll obviously still go to Egypt and Israel, but we may add additional countries", the official said.

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