US Vice President Mike Pence promised Monday to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem "before the end of next year" in a Knesset speech that earned him rousing applause and multiple standing ovations from the gathered lawmakers.
"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.
Pence also called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, stressing that "peace can only come through dialogue."
"We recognize peace will require compromise," he continued, "but you can be confident the United States will never compromise the safety and security of the State of Israel. Any peace agreement must guarantee Israel's ability to defend itself by itself."
But before Pence can begin his speech, he was interrupted by Arab MKs from the Joint List, who stormed into the room holding protest signs in Arabic and English saying "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."
Within seconds, Knesset ushers pounced on the Arab MKs and removed them from the plenum. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced the rebellious lawmakers were banned from attending the remainder of the session.
Pence responded to the fracas by saying with a smile: "It is deeply humbling for me to stand before this vibrant democracy."
Pence began his speech with a message of support "from the heart of the American people: America stands with Israel. We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values and your fight is out fight."
Pence, an evangelical Christian, drew parallels between Jewish history dating back to biblical times and the European pilgrims who founded the United States. "It’s a story of an exodus, a journey from prosecution to freedom," he said, recounting how the founding fathers of the US "turned to the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible."
Noting that Israel will in May mark 70 years since its founding Pence switched to Hebrew to recite "Shehecheyanu," a Jewish prayer of thanksgiving, which translates to: "Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion." This was met with an enthusiastic standing ovation from his listeners.
“70 years ago, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel. As you know, the work we began that day remains unfinished," he said, lamenting the fact that "one American administration after another refused to recognize your capital" until Trump's historic recognition last month.
“By finally recognizing Jerusalem, the United States has chosen fact over fiction—and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace,” the vice president said.
The United States, he said, knows that "Israelis want peace, and we know Israelis need no lectures on the price of war. The people of Israel know the terrible price all too well … You also know best what the blessings of peace can bring to you, your children and future generations."
Pence said he and Trump were confident peace was possible. "There are those who believe the world can’t change, that we’re destined to engage in endless violence, that age-old conflicts can’t be resolved and that hope itself is an illusion. But President Trump doesn’t believe it, I don’t believe it, and neither do you," he said.
"I know peace is possible because history records show Israel has made the difficult decisions to achieve peace with its neighbors in the past," Pence continued, going on to talk about his visits to Egypt and Jordan.
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."
'Iran nuclear deal is a disaster'
The US vice president spoke of the fight being led by the US against terrorism worldwide. "We will continue to bring the full force of our might to drive radical Islamic terrorism from the earth," he vowed.
He singled out Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism and attacked the nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers—including the United States.
"The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster and the United States of America will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement," he declared to yet another round of applause.
"We’re committed to enact effective and lasting restraints on Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs," Pence added, repeating President Trump's warning that unless the nuclear deal is fixed, the US will withdraw from the agreement.
"I have a solemn promise to Israel, the Middle East and the world—the United States will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon," he vowed, adding that the US "will also no longer tolerate Iran’s support of terrorism or its brutal oppression of its own people."
Pence also had a message "from the people of America to the proud and great people of Iran: We are your friends. And the day is coming when you will be freed from the evil regime that suffocates your dreams and buries your hopes. And when your day of liberation finally comes, we say to the good people of Iran: The friendship between our peoples will blossom once again."
US recognition of Jerusalem 'will never be forgotten'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke ahead of Pence, alternated between Hebrew and English. "It’s fitting that you are the first American vice president to speak at the Knesset in Jerusalem, because no American vice president has had a greater commitment to Israel and its people," Netanyahu began in English.
"You stood shoulder to shoulder with President Trump over the past year to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. It is truly an honor to have you address the Knesset today," the prime minister continued.
Netanyahu then switched to Hebrew, telling the vice president he wanted to speak "in the language of our people."
"We have a shared past, a shared future and a shared destiny," Netanyahu said.
He thanked President Trump and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley "for the resolute support of Israel at the UN. In the battle against the lies and malice, you stand with Israel, you stand with the truth. On behalf of all of us, thank you."
The prime minister also thanked Pence and the United States for "the generous security aid, which helps us defend ourselves by ourselves. Thank you for the economic support in the years we needed it, support which helped us turn Israel's economy to free and independent, the engine to turning Israel into a technological world superpower."
Together, the prime minister said, Israel and the United States deal "with the gravest threat to the free world, which in my eyes is the greatest threat to the entire world—the zealot regime in Iran and its terror proxies."
"We will thwart Iran and not allow it to arm itself with nuclear weapons. This is our policy and this is your policy," Netanyahu told Pence.
Israel and the United States "are striving together to achieve a true peace, lasting peace, peace with all our neighbors, including the Palestinians," Netanyahu said.
He reiterated his long-standing demand that the Palestinians recognize "the Jewish people's right to a nation state in its land, a nation state of its own here in the land of Israel."The Palestinians have ruled out such recognition, saying it would disadvantage Israel's Arab minority.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who also met with Pence, warmly welcomed the vice president. "Welcome to Israel, welcome to the Knesset, welcome to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people," Edelstein told Pence. "I know that in your free time, you like to read the words of the prophets. Here in Jerusalem, you can see with your own eyes the realization of the propecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel Zechariah. We are building modern Jerusalem on ancient, 3,000-years-old foundations."
Edelstein hailed Trump's assertion that old challenges need new solutions. "It's a mistake to assume that repeating the formulas of the past would bring different results in the future," he said.
Seeking new solutions "has the power to crumble the two biggest lines that have been burdening the peace process for decades," the Knesset speaker asserted.
"The first lie is that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to peace in the entire Middle East. It's an alluring lie, as it offers a very simple answer to a very complicated reality," he continued. "This lie has been able to blind leaders from all over the world from seeing that the real enemy of stability and prosperity in the regional is the extremist regime in Iran."
"The second lie is the assertions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Edelstein said. "For decades, Israel has been dealing with baseless accusations: 'You're exclusively responsible for the continuation of the conflict, you're the warmongers who reject peace.' This is another lie we're disproving here today."
Edelstein also assured Pence that "You won't hear the phrase 'May your house come to ruin' in this House," referring to Palestinian President Abbas's insult to Trump. "Here, you'll hear a blessing for the home."
Netanyahu has said he expected at least an interim arrangement to go into effect very soon, perhaps within a year.
Pence has made a list of requests ahead of his visit to the Knesset, including a teleprompter, two additional cameras to document his speech in addition to the Knesset Channel cameras, warm lighting, and a room with a shower to get ready in.
Reuters contributed to this report.