Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday vowed to “make history” as he headed to Washington for two meetings with US President Donald Trump during which the White House is expected to unveil its much-anticipated plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“Over the last three years, I spoke countless times with President Trump — a huge friend of Israel — and his team about these vital security needs, about our security, about our justice,” Netanyahu declared. “I will meet with President Trump tomorrow, and on Tuesday, together with him, we will make history.”
As he boarded his Boeing 777 en route to to the American capital, Netanyahu contrasted his antagonistic stance toward the last US president, Barack Obama, with his strong alliance with the current inhabitant of the Oval Office.
“Five years ago, I went to Washington, to Congress, because I was forced to oppose a plan proposed by the American president, because I believed that this plan endangered Israel’s most vital security needs and indeed its very existence,” he said referring to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Obama championed.
At the time, Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of US Congress to advocate against the deal.
“Today, I am going to Washington to stand next to an American president who is proposing a deal that, I believe, advances Israel’s most vital security,” Netanyahu said, referring to Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century.
The deal, which is expected to be released on Tuesday, has been deemed the most pro-Israel outline for Middle East peace ever presented by a US administration.
Also on Sunday, his main political rival, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, took off for Washington for a separate meeting with the US president.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to meet with Trump, separately and privately, in the White House on Monday. Netanyahu and Trump are set for a higher-profile meeting Tuesday.
Gantz on Saturday surprisingly announced that Trump had invited him to meet “in person, as the leader of the largest party in Israel.” Previously, it had appeared that Israel’s de facto opposition leader was invited to join Netanyahu’s meeting Trump.
The fact that the novice politician managed to get a separate meeting is seen as unprecedented and as major diplomatic accomplishment.
Asked at Ben Gurion Airport whether he will endorse the plan or ask Trump to push off its release until after elections, Gantz demurred.
“I’ll hear from him about the plan and exchange views, but what is done behind closed doors will stay behind closed doors,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.
The meeting, set to be Gantz’s first with the US president, will be closed to the press, Blue and White said on Saturday.
The plan, which Trump said he would release before his meeting Tuesday, is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
According to Channel 12, the peace plan is the most generous US proposal ever for Israel, likely providing for Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements and sovereignty throughout Jerusalem. The TV report, which was unsourced, said the plan also offers potential eventual recognition of Palestinian statehood, provided the Palestinians demilitarize Gaza and accept Israel as a Jewish state — conditions the Palestinians would presumably reject.
At the weekly cabinet meeting earlier on Sunday, the prime minister said that Israel is in the middle of “very dramatic diplomatic events,” stressing that “the peak is yet before us.”
“I think that such an opportunity occurs once in history and we cannot miss it. For three years, I have spoken with President Trump and his staff about our security and national needs — many dozens of conversations, hundreds of hours. In all these talks, I have found an attentive ear in the White House to the State of Israel’s vital needs.”
“I am leaving for Washington with a sense of great mission, great responsibility and great opportunity, and I am full of hope that we will be able to make history.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.