Trump confirms PM, Gantz to visit; rejects ‘speculative’ reports on peace plan

US president says he ‘looks forward’ to welcoming Israeli political rivals at the White House for talks next week

US President Donald Trump leaves for Doral, Florida, from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on January 23, 2020. (Eric Baradat/AFP)
US President Donald Trump leaves for Doral, Florida, from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on January 23, 2020. (Eric Baradat/AFP)

US President Donald Trump on Thursday confirmed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will visit the White House next week for talks on his yet to be released Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

On Twitter, Trump said he “looks forward to welcoming” the Israeli political rivals when they come to Washington on Tuesday.

“Reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative,” he added.

Trump did not specify which reports he was referring to, but some Hebrew media outlets on Thursday suggested the plan could be published next week.

An unsourced Channel 12 news report included numerous details of what would purportedly be in the plan, describing it as “the most generous proposal” ever presented to Israel.

According to the report, Trump’s peace plan provides for full Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, for Israel to annex all West Bank settlements, and for no significant “return” to Israel of Palestinian refugees.

It ultimately provides for a Palestinian state but under conditions that no Palestinian leader could conceivably accept, the report said. The network reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not know the details of the plan, and that it is regarded in Ramallah as “dead on arrival.” The PA has had no substantive dealings with the US administration since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

Hinting at the imminent unveiling of the plan, US Vice President Mike Pence, who is in Israel for the World Holocaust Forum, said Thursday evening that Trump, Netanyahu and Gantz would discuss the prospect of “peace in the Holy Land.”

US Vice President Mike Pence hosts PM Netanyahu at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020. The meeting was also attended by Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, left, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Pence made the comments while sitting with Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Jared Kushner, the president’s Middle East peace envoy, had also been expected in Israel this week, but canceled his visit, citing weather in Davos.

Netanyahu said “the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security it deserves.” He added, “I suggested that Benny Gantz be invited as well” to the White House.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, on October 27, 2019. (Elad Malka)

The Channel 12 report quoted the Israeli sources as saying the plan represented an unprecedented offer for Israel. It said Netanyahu has ordered his ministers not to publicly discuss its provisions.

Trump had wanted to unveil the plan for some time, but held off because of Israel’s protracted electoral deadlock, the report said. But he had now decided to wait no longer.

A Channel 13 TV report set out slightly different conditions, but said these were from a year-old version of the plan, which had “since moved to the right.” That earlier plan, it said, provided for Israel to annex some 15 percent of the West Bank, for the Palestinians to have sovereignty in some East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and for 60 settlement outposts that Israel considers illegal to be evacuated.

It quoted a White House source describing the current plan as “the most pro-Israel plan ever produced or presented.”

Netanyahu and Gantz will head to Washington on Tuesday, the White House confirmed in a brief statement, the same day as a Knesset plenum vote to establish the committee that will weigh Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity from graft charges.

Though it will provide Gantz a major opportunity to appear on the world stage, the Haaretz daily quoted a Blue and White source describing the invitation as part of alleged White House efforts to help Netanyahu postpone the Knesset deliberation of his request for immunity until after the March 2 election.

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