US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that he expects the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan to move ahead after Israel’s upcoming national elections, no matter who is elected prime minister.
Pompeo made the statements to Channels 12 and 13 while in Washington following the plan’s release.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, met with US President Donald Trump in Washington ahead of the plan’s unveiling.
When asked about the upcoming Israeli vote, Pompeo highlighted Gantz’s apparent enthusiasm for the plan during his meeting with Trump.
“When General Gantz visited with President Trump yesterday I was there. I listened to General Gantz talk about this plan and he said he thought it made sense and was something he would be happy to engage in and something he thought would make real sense for Israel in that it continued to provide the security Israel needed,” Pompeo told Channel 13.
He added that he was “not concerned” about potential difficulties following the March 2 vote.
“General Gantz was excited about it. He was on board with the plan and I am confident. This is a relationship between the United States and Israel and I’m very confident that the vision laid out today will continue no matter how the election proceeds on March 2 of this year,” Pompeo told Channel 12.
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Pompeo was scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer on Tuesday night.
Gantz met Trump on Monday before traveling back to Israel to take part in the planned Knesset deliberation on forming a House Committee to debate Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution, which the prime minister ended up withdrawing.
It was Gantz’s first sit-down with the US leader. The meeting was highly unusual, as American presidents almost never meet opposition leaders from foreign countries.
Addressing reporters in his Washington hotel afterwards, Gantz said his Oval Office meeting with Trump was “important and exceptional,” and praised the president as a “true and courageous friend” of Israel. Rather than acting unilaterally on the basis of the “significant and historic” plan, however, Gantz said: “Immediately after the elections, I will work toward implementing it from within a stable, functioning Israeli government, in tandem with the other countries in our region.” Netanyahu said late Tuesday he would begin the process of unilateral territorial annexation at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu will be heading into the election as the first sitting Israeli prime minister under indictment. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday filed bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges against Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, following the prime minister’s Tuesday morning decision to withdraw his request for parliamentary immunity.
According to the text of the indictment, released by the Justice Ministry in November, Netanyahu is charged with fraud and breach of trust in cases 1000 and 2000, and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.
The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in all three cases, and has alleged that the investigations against him are a “witch hunt” involving the left, the media and the police relentlessly pressuring a “weak” attorney general.
Mandelblit has refused to issue a decision on whether an indicted lawmaker can be tasked with forming a government and the High Court threw out a petition on the issue earlier this month, calling it “premature.”
Crucially, the panel of justices led by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut indicated it could reexamine the question after the election.
Elections in April and September failed to break a political deadlock and produce a permanent government, sending Israel to an unprecedented third vote on March 2.