Just hours before US Vice President Mike Pence lands in Israel as he tours the Middle East, MK Ahmad Tibi (Arab Joint List) described him Sunday as “one of the most extreme and delusional people in the American administration.”
Speaking in an interview with Ynet, Tibi explained why his party had decided to boycott Pence’s address to the Knesset during his three-day trip to Israel.
“His ultimate goal shouldn’t really please the general Jewish public in Israel, but due to the fact that he pushed for Trump’s speech to transfer the embassy (to Jerusalem) and recognize the so-called capital of the Jewish state, people are enthusiastic about him being here,” Tibi said.
“In the Joint List we have a political stance that absolutely rejects the conduct of this administration, that has proven it is part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
Why won’t you be in the Knesset plenum and argue with Pence?
“You know that according to the regulations you can’t argue. Wait until tomorrow and you’ll see what we’ll do. The Joint List will say what it has to say through a protest boycott. We have no doubt that we cannot act respectfully toward Pence, Trump and all that they represent.
“I hope that the entire Arab world too and the free world will boycott this administration. At the end of the week thousands of people protested in the US against this administration, and I think that the majority in Israel appreciated these protests.”
Do you think this visit will likely inflame the region?
“No. The positions of the government, Pence’s speech and things that have been leaked by the administration are what undermine the stability, and without doubt it constitutes an blow to the Palestinian people and creates a complete cancelation of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.
“I am interested in Israeli-Palestinian peace that is based on the end of the occupation and two states. This administration, to this day, has not mentioned the term ‘two-state solution.’ This should worry many Israelis and many Palestinians and the entire world.”
Furious over the Joint Lists’s decision to snub Pence, Deputy Minister Michael Oren (Kulanu) said that he had filed a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee against the party leader MK Ayman Odeh for calling the vice president “Messianic and dangerous.”
“There is also the concept of respect in the Knesset. There are also boundaries in the Knesset. In the Knesset we need to think about what to say and not to say. There is a guest here and not just an ordinary one,” said Oren in an exclusive interview with Ynet, who formerly served as the Israeli ambassador to the US.
Pence’s visit, he added, was extremely important and symbolized the US’s “presence and shows that the Americans are involved. They returned to the Middle East after a few years of withdrawing from the Middle East. He visited Egypt and Jordan and we have a very long list of things to talk about. It’s not only about the Palestinians but also about the Iranian issue, the UN and about what if, God forbid, another round of war erupts between us and Hezbollah and Hamas.”
Oren also said that he had known Pence for many years and personally accompanied him on his last visit to Israel to a Hummus bar in south Tel Aviv. “In my opinion, he is a man of great faith, but he doesn’t force his beliefs on the reality of the Middle East. He is first and foremost loyal to his president,” Oren said when asked to describe the vice president.
Addressing Tibi’s earlier claims that Trump and Pence had categorically rejected the the notion of two states, Oren said that the charge was false.
“The president has said more than once that if a two-state solution is accepted by both sides he will support it. Pence always falls into line behind President Trump.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier on Sunday that he was looking forward to welcoming Pence, describing him as a "great friend of Israel."
"This evening a great friend of the State of Israel will arrive in Israel, a true friend, US Vice President Mike Pence. We will welcome him. I am very much looking forward to our discussions. We will discuss the efforts of the Trump administration to block Iran's aggression and the Iranian nuclear program, and of course, advancing security and peace in the region. Whoever truly aspires to realize these goals knows that there is no substitute for US leadership," Netanyahu said during his opening remarks at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
He further slammed the Arab Joint List's decision to boycott the US vice president.
This evening a great friend of the State of Israel will arrive in Israel, a true friend, US Vice President Mike Pence. We will welcome him. I am very much looking forward to our discussions. We will discuss the efforts of the Trump administration to block Iran's aggression and the Iranian nuclear program, and of course, advancing security and peace in the region. Whoever truly aspires to realize these goals knows that there is no substitute for US leadership.
"I view it as a disgrace that MKs intend to boycott this important visit to the Knesset and are even seeking to disrupt it. We will all be there and will show Vice President Pence the great respect that he is due," he added.