But rifts within Blue and White, too, over Palestinian state

Gantz says he’ll bring Trump peace plan before Knesset for vote next week

Move would likely challenge Blue and White’s rivals on the right, who have come out in support of proposal but oppose its offering of a state to Palestinians

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz speaks at an INSS conference on January 29, 2020. (Elad Malka)
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz speaks at an INSS conference on January 29, 2020. (Elad Malka)

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz declared Wednesday that he would bring US President Donald Trump’s recently released peace plan before the Knesset plenum next week for a vote.

“This is a historic opportunity to draw Israel’s future borders,” Gantz said of the White House proposal during an address at an Institute for National Security Studies conference.

“The peace plan is consistent with the fundamental principles outlined in the Blue and White’s platform. Next week, I will bring the entirety of President Trump’s peace plan, as unveiled yesterday, to the Knesset for approval,” Gantz added.

It’s unclear what legal force a Knesset vote on the plan would have, but it would likely place Blue and White’s right-wing rivals in a bind.

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) attend a press conference in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated his support for the plan standing next to US President Donald Trump in Washington on Tuesday, its envisioning of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel is an element that the right-wing Yamina party, and even parts of Netanyahu’s Likud will have a hard time accepting.

Yamina lawmakers along with many settler leaders said that while they welcomed the plan’s acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over all the settlements and the Jordan Valley, the establishment of a Palestinian state, no matter how small and non-contiguous, was a red line that they would not allow to be crossed.

However, Channel 13 reported Wednesday that the Trump proposal has also exposed a rift in Gantz’s own party, with the centrist alliance’s Telem flank, led by Moshe Ya’alon, unhappy with its inclusion of a state for Palestinians.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz (R) and party MKs Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi at a faction meeting in Tel Aviv on January 8, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

During a faction meeting on Tuesday, Ya’alon lectured members from the more centrist Yesh Atid slate. “Stop saying that it is possible to reach a peace agreement. It’s a dream. It’s a hallucination. The Palestinians have been peace rejecters for almost 100 years,” he said.

“The Trump plan is the closest thing to the platform of Blue and White. We cannot and must not speak about a state [for the Palestinians], but rather autonomy only,” he added, according to Channel 13.

Gantz’s remarks came as Likud has vowed to bring a proposal to annex the settlements and Jordan Valley before the cabinet for a vote next week. While Netanyahu had initially said he planned to do so on Sunday, US and Israeli officials have since hinted that the measure will likely take additional time to prepare.

Commenting on those annexation efforts in his INSS speech, Gantz said that “reckless and irresponsible steps that are not carried out in coordination with our allies in Egypt and Jordan jeopardize [Israel’s] ability to implement [the peace plan].”

For its part, Likud blasted Gantz’s declared Knesset effort.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint statement in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/AFP)

“The hitchhiker Gantz is trying to catch a lift on the tremendous accomplishments brought by the prime minister after three years of intensive work with the Trump administration. A joke,” a statement from the party’s spokesperson said.

Breaking with past US administrations, the plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in part of the West Bank, a handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and some areas of southern Israel — on condition that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip disarm.

The plan also calls for allowing Israel to annex settlements, granting the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, as well as ongoing overall security control west of the Jordan River, and barring Palestinians from entering Israel as refugees.

Jerusalem would remain “the undivided” capital of Israel, Trump stressed as he unveiled the plan in the White House Tuesday, with Netanyahu standing next to him.

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