While President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans battle to reopen the federal government, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Israel this week to meet with dignitaries and visit a handful of historic sites - including the Holocaust Memorial.
But during a speech to the Knesset - Israel's parliament - Monday afternoon (local time) , Pence surprised his audience by declaring that the US would not re-certify the Iran deal when it comes up for renewal in May, virtually guaranteeing that the US will reimpose economic sanctions against the Iranian regime. Trump re-certified the deal earlier this month "for the last time", part of a deal with Democrats to buy them some time to work out a compromise.
Here's the Associated Press:
Vice President Mike Pence is calling the Iranian nuclear deal a "disaster" and says the Trump administration will no longer certify it.
Instead, Pence told the Israeli parliament on Monday that the administration is "committed to enact effective and lasting restraints on Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs."
Pence has received a warm welcome in Israel, which has praised the American decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among the fiercest opponents to the nuclear accord the Obama administration reached with Iran, saying it could pave a path for the Islamic Republic acquiring a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel's existence.
Pence says that the deal is not fixed and that in the coming months, the United States will "withdraw from the deal."
While a wave of economic protests that momentarily threatened the government's grip a few weeks ago have mostly subsided, Iranians are still struggling with massive youth unemployment and runaway inflation.
The US bowing out of the deal would most likely lead to its collapse, as Iranian leaders have warned they would consider the whole pact - which also involves Germany, the European Union, Russia, China and France - null and void if the US were to pull out.
During his speech, Pence defended the US's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital - a decision that elicited howls of condemnation from the Palestinians and their Arab allies, according to the Associated Press.
Pence says the administration will advance its plan in the coming weeks and the embassy will open by the end of 2019. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson once said that it would take three or four years to move the embassy. Enraged Palestinians have pre-emptively rejected any push for peace presented by the Trump administration. Pence's announcement also earned jeers from Arab-Israeli lawmakers,who were promptly ejected from the house. The main Arab party in the Israeli parliament warned ahead of time it would boycott Pence on Monday.
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List, said it was the party’s democratic right to boycott the speech by the U.S. vice president. In a tweet, he said the party will not provide a “silent backdrop” to a man he called a “dangerous racist.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accompanied Pence for most of his visit, on Monday in a speech to parliament that President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital will go down as one of the most historic in Israel’s history.
Alternating between English and Hebrew, Netanyahu lauded the unbreakable alliance between the countries, saying they had a "shared destiny."