Indiana Governor Mike Pence joins a growing list of well-respected US government officials and potential presidential candidates expressing strong support for the State of Israel. During a nine-day visit to the small country, Pence met with its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, while rejecting an invitation to Christmas dinner with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The Republican former congressman, who spent 12 years serving on Capitol Hill, traveled to Israel with a two-pronged agenda: a cultural aspect, which includes such sites as the National Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem and the Western Wall; and an economic aspect, to strengthen economic ties between Indiana and Israel.
Pence’s office told CNN that the cultural visits are being paid for by Christians United for Israel, and the economic development portion of the trip is being covered by the Indiana Economic Development Foundation. The state is covering the cost of his two-man security detail.
In a video posted on Twitter by Netanyahu’s office, Pence told the Israeli Prime Minister, “I would pledge to you from my vantage point in the heart of the heartland … that not just during this very special time of the year for people who share my tradition, but all throughout the year, that an appreciation for the state of Israel and the partnership between the state of Israel and America has never been stronger.”
Netanyahu raised the issue of the Palestinian bid to have the UN impose a deadline for Israeli withdrawal from lands it claims for a future state, calling on the “responsible” powers in the world to stop such a move. Pence responded that the US stands behind Israel.
“The strong and broad bipartisan support for the state of Israel I know will be reflected in decisions that our Congress makes in the months ahead to preserve the support the United States provides to Israel, to ensure that Israel is able to enter into negotiations to achieve defensible borders and secure its own peace and security in the years ahead.”
The bid was ultimately defeated in the Security Council Tuesday.
Meanwhile, reports The Jewish Voice NY, citing senior Jerusalem Post editor Caroline Glick, Pence turned down Christmas dinner with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. According to Glick, Pence received a message informing him a car would pick him up for an “unscheduled and unsolicited meeting” with Abbas at 10:45 pm. Says Glick, Pence, “in his inimitable wisdom, politely and firmly declined the summons.”
Pence is being accompanied on his trip by his wife and three children, with whom he spent the holiday instead. He is the latest in a string of Presidential hopefuls to visit Israel and express support for the beleaguered country. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham met with Netanyahu Saturday, while another Republican hopeful, Ben Carson, visited last week. Republican Mike Huckabee visited in September.
Other potential candidates have expressed strong support for Israel in other venues, including Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Mitch McConnell. Pence has not officially announced his candidacy for the Republican leadership, but he has expressed an interest, and this trip has offered the impression that he will.