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Worry, anger over U.S. Mideast stance as Pence lauds Israel

Pence's Israel visit

JERUSALEM -- Vice President Mike Pence continued his visit to Israel on Tuesday with events emphasizing the Trump administration's strong backing of Israel in the decades-old dispute in the heart of the Middle East.

Pence is the first senior Trump administration official to visit the region following President Trump's landmark decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. During the trip he said the U.S. is accelerating plans to move the U.S. embassy to the contested holy city.

That move, which will be the most physical manifestation of the Trump White House's Mideast policy, is partly why Israel has quite literally rolled out the carpet for Pence. In turn, the vice president has heaped praise on Israel and the relationship between the two countries.

Pence says U.S. will move embassy to Jerusalem next year

On Tuesday, Pence made a highly symbolic visit to show that respect, laying a wreath during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. He also visited one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith, praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.

Pence has reminded Israelis -- a number of times -- of the U.S. policy shift that preceded this trip, emphasizing his visit to Jerusalem, "the capital of Israel."

But that stance has infuriated many across the Muslim world. The vice president was heckled by Arab-Israeli lawmakers on Monday during his speech at the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Palestinian leaders have refused to meet Pence, boycotting his visit and calling a general strike Tuesday across the Palestinian territories in protest.

The Palestinians cite what they say is the now-clear U.S. bias in favor of Israel.

Protests continue after Trump's Jerusalem recognition

At a packed medical clinic in the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Amari, in the West Bank, the U.S. flag can be spotted -- but only because America has been the biggest funder of the United Nations agency that runs the place.

Like most Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, Al-Amari is overcrowded and its inhabitants suffer from poor infrastructure and sanitation.

Despite decades of financial support through UNRWA, the U.N. agency dedicated entirely to supporting Palestinian refugees, CBS News found patients at a clinic in Al-Amari who were angry with the U.S.

A Palestinian boy stands leaning on to sacks of food aid provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Rafah, in the Southern Gaza Strip, Aug. 22, 2017. Getty

"Mister Pence is not welcome," Samer Adel Abu-Shawish said. "Not welcome here at all."

Earlier this month, the U.S. announced it was suspending $65 million in aid to UNRWA -- a "pretty big" hole in the budget according to Scott Anderson, an American who is in charge of UNRWA operations.

Anderson's staff run more than 40 medical clinics in the West Bank, and he admits they are concerned.

"Certainly this is the largest deficit that UNRWA has ever faced -- and there are not a lot of alternate sources for people to seek medical care," Anderson told CBS News.

He said that while he's hopeful the Trump administration could change course and come through with the rest of the funding, UNRWA's primary focus right now is on fundraising.

"We'll look everywhere," Anderson said. "Every year we ask our member states and individuals to donate to this cause. There's still hope that the U.S. could change the position, change their decision, but until then we will be reaching out globally to supporters of Palestine and asking them to donate to us."

In the meantime, the worry and frustration evident in the Al-Amari clinic is being echoed across the region -- whether it be from Arab leaders or Muslim shopkeepers in Jerusalem's Old City.

The concern is that, despite Pence's talk about peace and a commitment to a political resolution, recent U.S. actions will only destabilize this delicate region, and push the prospect of peace further away.