US embassy to move to Jerusalem this year

The US embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, US Vice President Mike Pence has said in a speech to the Israeli parliament.

President Donald Trump last month recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said he would move the US embassy there, stoking Palestinian anger and international concern, and angering Arab states across the region.

"In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the United States embassy in Jerusalem - and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year," Pence said on Monday.

"Jerusalem is Israel's capital and, as such, President Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."

The speech was briefly disrupted at the outset by Israeli Arab parliament members who held up protest signs in Arabic and English, reading "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine". They were ejected by ushers.

Pence responded to the fracas by saying with a smile: "It is deeply humbling for me to stand before this vibrant democracy."

Though shunned by the Palestinians, the Trump administration says it remains committed to helping them and Israel negotiate a peace deal. Those talks have been stalled for almost four years.

Responding to Pence's speech, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "If the United States wanted to a play a role of a mediator in the peace process, it must be a fair mediator and it must abide by (international) resolutions."

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, including the walled Old City with its holy sites, as the capital of their own future state. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in 1967 in a move not internationally recognised, regards all of the city as its "eternal and indivisible capital".

Pence, who visited Egypt and Jordan before travelling to Israel, said that with its policy shift on Jerusalem, "the United States has chosen fact over fiction - and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace".

Reuters