Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel and the second of the Obama administration’s three Mideast peace envoys, on Saturday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not giving the true facts in his claim that he’d stopped an effort by rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party to support an Obama-era settlement withdrawal plan.
Indyk said it was in fact Netanyahu who had encouraged and shown interest in the plan, and that it was his defense minister at the time — now a Gantz ally — who had slammed the breaks on the discussions.
Netanyahu published a video on his Facebook page Friday which repeated his claim that Gantz, the former Israel Defense Forces head, had cooperated with the administration of former US president Barack Obama on a plan that included withdrawing settlements from the Jordan Valley and West Bank. It further claimed that Netanyahu had stopped these efforts in their tracks.
The so-called Allen Plan was drawn up by retired US general John Allen and advanced by then-secretary of state John Kerry as part of 2013-2014 peace talks with the Palestinians.
“The truth: Bibi encouraged and showed considerable interest in the Allen Plan and never said annexation was necessary. Blue and White’s Bogie Ya’alon, as Bibi’s Defense Minister, vetoed the Allen Plan, NOT Bibi. Bogie also forbad Gantz from discussing the plan with US officials,” Indyk wrote on Twitter, referring to both Netanyahu and Moshe Ya’alon by their nicknames.
The truth: Bibi encouraged and showed considerable interest in the Allen Plan and never said annexation was necessary. Blue and White’s Bogie Ya’alon, as Bibi’s Defense Minister, vetoed the Allen Plan, NOT Bibi. Bogie also forbad Gantz from discussing the plan with US officials. https://t.co/wyhBSqR6am
— Martin Indyk (@Martin_Indyk) September 14, 2019
While allowing for an Israeli military presence in the border area between Jordan and the West Bank, the plan would have required the dismantling of all Israel’s settlements in the Jordan Valley, according to reports at the time.
Dozens of US officers and experts worked for months on the Allen Plan, under the leadership of the four-star marine general and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan. The plan was drawn up on the basis of numerous discussions with top Israeli officials, including army chiefs of staff, Mossad heads and Shin Bet directors.
The details of the plan remain secret, but it was an important component of the ultimately futile 2013-2014 peace talks spearheaded by Kerry. Its purpose was to address Israel’s security concerns once a Palestinian state is established.
However, the plan was reportedly dismissed by then-defense minister Ya’alon, as “not worth the paper it is printed on” and something that would not provide security for Israel. Ya’alon reportedly said that a civilian presence in the area was critical for maintaining effective control of the region.
The discussions ended when the Kerry-proposed peace deal fell apart.
The Likud party on Saturday denied Indyk’s claims, saying in a statement that “Prime Minister Netanyahu demanded that the IDF control all territory west of the Jordan and was not prepared to transfer this responsibility to any international force under any circumstance.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu announced that if he wins the September 17 parliamentary elections, he will annex the key area immediately.
The region makes up around a quarter of the West Bank.
Around 45,000 Palestinians live there, along with fewer than 10,000 Israelis. The areas outlined by Netanyahu include some 30 settlements, and though the prime minister has said no Palestinians will be annexed, 48 Palestinian villages with a total just under 9,000 residents are in the marked area.