Peace plan release now ‘interference’ in election, Amir Peretz writes to Trump

Peace plan release now ‘interference’ in election, Amir Peretz writes to Trump

Labor party head thanks US president for his ‘commitment’ to solving conflict, but warns against unilateral steps, rolling out of peace outline ahead of March vote

Labor party leader Amir Peretz speaks in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2020. (Flash90)
Labor party leader Amir Peretz speaks in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2020. (Flash90)

Labor party chief Amir Peretz on Saturday issued a letter to US President Donald Trump, urging him to refrain from releasing his long-awaited peace plan soon because doing so would be an intervention in Israeli elections.

Trump said on Thursday that he will release the plan ahead of a Tuesday meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who was also invited to the White House, announced on Saturday that he would meet with Trump separately and in private a day before.

The Tuesday meeting at the White House is scheduled on the same day the Knesset is set to vote on establishing the committee that will weigh Netanyahu’s request to be protected from corruption charges in three criminal cases.

The timing of the release of the plan, which according to media reports is unprecedented in its concessions toward Israel, has led many politicians and commentators to say it appears to be an effort by the US leader to boost Netanyahu’s prospects ahead of the March 2 election.

Peretz in his letter thanked Trump for his “commitment and eagerness to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” but warned that “unilateral annexations or steps that undermine the concept of two states, living peacefully side by side is a recipe for further trouble and turmoil.”

He went on to say that “the timing of this presentation constitutes an interference in the Israeli election, scheduled for March 2.”

“I am confident that this was not your intention. Once a new Government is formed in Israel, your continued support and intermediation will be, as always, welcomed and cherished,” Peretz wrote in English in the missive.

Peretz merged his Labor party with the left-wing Meretz faction earlier this month. Labor previously joined with the centrist Gesher alliance ahead of last September’s national vote. The three parties, headed by Peretz, will run together in the March election.

On Saturday, Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman also criticized Trump’s imminent release of the plan. Liberman called the timing of the release “very suspicious,” implying it was being unveiled now to help Netanyahu’s chances in the March 2 election.

Issuing the long-delayed peace plan so close to the election, said Liberman, meant that there would no possibility to discuss it substantively before the national vote.

“To unveil such a plan five weeks before an election is very suspicious,” he said. “The very timing of it will prevent any serious, in-depth discussion of the proposal.” And in a peace plan, he added, “every word and every line counts.”

Liberman also accused Netanyahu of “running away” to the US by traveling to Washington this coming week to discuss the peace initiative.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Friday Culture event in Glilot, on December 20, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Netanyahu on Saturday called the invitation to Washington a “historic moment” and an “opportunity that should not be missed.”

“Today in the White House, we have the greatest friend Israel has had, and so we have the greatest opportunity,” Netanyahu said.

“For three years, I have been talking to President Trump and his team about our most vital security needs which must be included in any political settlement. I have found a listening ear in the White House for these needs,” he said.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz addressing press in Ramat Gan, on January 25, 2020. (Elad Malka/Blue and White)

Under the terms of the soon-to-be released plan, Israel would retain overall security control of the entire West Bank even if a Palestinian state is established in parts of it, Israeli TV reports said Friday.

Channel 13 said it would ultimately provide for a demilitarized Palestinian state in some 80 percent of the West Bank, under overall Israeli control. That state would not be empowered to maintain an army and sign military treaties, and Israel would control its borders, further reports on Friday said.

The Channel 13 report said the US expects the Palestinians to reject the plan, but would encourage them to think again, and would say that the 80% of West Bank territory intended for their state would be kept for them for several years.

The various Israeli reports on the plan to date have made no mention of the intended fate of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

US President Donald Trump arrives at Miami International Airport en route to attend the Republican National Committee winter meetings, January 23, 2020. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Israeli reports have described the deal as the “most pro-Israel plan ever presented” by a US administration.

The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan and is reportedly threatening to cancel its security coordination with Israel in the West Bank if it moves ahead. The PA has had no substantive dealings with the US administration since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

The US is seeking to encourage allied Arab foreign ministers to attend Tuesday’s White House meeting, thus far to no avail, Channel 12 said.

Netanyahu is reportedly hoping to use the US initiative to deflect attention from his legal troubles and the drama that is set to take place at the Knesset this coming week.

The premier has been charged with fraud and breach of trust in three criminal cases and bribery in one of them but has painted the accusations as part of a witch hunt by the media and the left.

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