Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump were planning to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and divide Jerusalem.
Speaking before a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Bennett, who now heads the New Right party, warned the shift in Netanyahu’s declared position would come “a day or two after election day” on April 9.
Shortly after the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu responded to Bennett’s claim with a terse denial.
“It’s natural for him to be anxious, and to get a little confused,” Netanyahu said of Bennett. “It goes without saying that elections can do funny things to small parties.”
In a statement, Netanyahu’s Likud party called Bennett’s warning “utter piffle with no connection to reality. After the elections, Netanyahu will establish a right-wing government under his leadership.”
In his initial comments to the press, Bennett said that the Trump administration had completed its plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Netanyahu and President Trump have agreed to come out with the plan to establish a Palestinian state on 90 percent [of the West Bank],” he said.
He added: “They’ve agreed not to present the plan before election day so that it doesn’t hurt Netanyahu, but a day or two after election day the plan will be presented, and will include the division of Jerusalem.”
In order to carry out such a peace plan against far-right opposition, a victorious Netanyahu will turn to the centrist Blue and White party of Benny Gantz in a bid to form a national unity coalition, Bennett warned.
“[Blue and White no. 2 Yair] Lapid and Gantz will join [the Likud-led government] and establish a ‘national peace government.'”
The only way to prevent that, he said, “was with a strong and authentic New Right.”
US President Donald Trump’s senior Middle East adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, said earlier this month that the administration would unveil its long-awaited “deal of the century” after the April 9 elections.
Kushner briefed participants at a security conference in Poland about the plan but would not go into details for fear of it leaking, according to a diplomat who watched the presentation. But he did say the plan would be released sometime after Israel’s upcoming election.
Kushner has been working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan for close to two years but has yet to release any details, and the release of his plan has been repeatedly delayed.
The diplomat quoted Netanyahu joking to Kushner at the gathering about his responsibility for developing a peace plan that “having this file” is a “tough one.”
“But, if you are crazy enough, and I think you might just be, you can come up with new ideas,” he said.
Netanyahu also urged all interested parties, particularly the Palestinians, to wait for the plan to come out before reacting to it or rejecting it.
In later comments alongside US Vice President Mike Pence, Netanyahu said he looked forward to “seeing the plan once it is presented.”
AP contributed to this report.