Despite Delayed Visit, Israel Prepares for Pence-Related Violence

Vice President Mike Pence. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Rocket attacks on Israel by Gaza Arab terrorists have increased significantly since President Donald Trump declared several weeks ago that the United States recognized Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital. And security forces are prepared for another uptick in attacks, as well as potential terror activity related to the upcoming visit to Israel by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence had been set to arrive on Wednesday, with an itinerary that would have kept him largely in Yerushalayim. But on Tuesday, it was announced that the trip would only take place in mid-January, as Pence is needed in Washington to help ensure passage of the President’s tax bill.

That likely means another month of slowly-ratcheting tension, officials told Hadashot News. But while Arab terror groups were seeking to take advantage of the Pence visit to attack Israel, on the theory that the IDF will not strike too hard in order not to complicate the visit. Over the past 11 days, Israel has sustained 14 rocket attacks, with two intercepted by Iron Dome missile defense rockets. Israel, meanwhile, has hit Gaza Arab terror targets 40 times during that period.

But security officials told Hadashot News that terror groups ought to rethink that theory. “After the visit, we will significantly increase our response to any attacks,” the officials said. Israel has sent out feelers to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas asking for calm during the Pence visit, lest things get out of control and a “mini-war” ensue while the Vice-President is in Israel.

Officials told Hadashot News that security would be very tight for the Pence visit, when it does take place. “National Police Chief Roni Alshich will be in charge of security operations, and much of the burden of Pence’s security will fall on the shoulders of police in Yerushalayim,” the officials said. “Pence plans to spend most of his time in Yerushalayim, and a number of public events are planned for there,” including a much-anticipated visit by Pence to the Kosel, his first official stop in Israel.

According to Channel Ten, Pence had asked to hold a press conference at the Kosel, which was to be his first official stop on his visit, but according to security officials, the idea was nixed due to opposition by Harav Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rav of the Kosel and Mekomos Hakedoshim, who was concerned that the event could generate unrest.

The PA itself has been getting ready for the Pence visit as well – with mass demonstrations against him and U.S. policies planned. Fatah, the terror movement controlling the PA, is planning several such demonstrations, with the biggest one set for the Kalandiya checkpoint. Despite the delay, that demonstration is likely to take place anyway, PA sources said. The PA this week reiterated yet again that it would not hold any meetings with Pence.