U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the United States will open its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in 2019.
Speaking at the Israeli parliament on January 22, Pence said that President Donald Trump's administration would push ahead with its controversial plan and that the embassy would open "before the end of next year."
"Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and...President Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," he said in the Knesset.
Pence's address was briefly disrupted, at the start, by Israeli Arab lawmakers who held up protest signs reading "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine." They were ejected.
Previous estimates had said it would take three or four years to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Pence defended Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which has faced vocal criticism from the Palestinians and their Arab allies.
The Palestinians claim Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as their capital.
Following Trump's announcement of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the Palestinians said they would reject any peace plan presented by his administration.
Earlier in the day, Pence told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it was an honor "to be in Israel's capital, Jerusalem."
Netanyahu thanked Pence for what he called Trump's "historic" recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and said that the U.S.-Israeli alliance had "never been stronger."
Pence was not expected to meet with Palestinian officials during his trip.
Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters