Vote is 2 weeks after AIPAC's summit, where PM often speaks

US signals snap Israeli election could affect peace plan rollout

April vote is ‘one of many factors we are considering’ in determining timetable of proposal’s release, White House official says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

A White House official on Monday said the Trump administration was taking the springtime Israeli election into account in planning the unveiling of its long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

“The upcoming election in Israel on April 9 is one of many factors we are considering in evaluating the timing of the release of the peace plan,” the US official said, hours after Israel’s coalition leaders announced that the national polls would be moved up by seven months.

The Trump proposal was expected to be rolled out in the coming months. The plan, details of which have been scant, is unlikely to be welcomed by either side. Israel’s Hadashot TV news suggested Monday night that the US would likely delay the release of the plan until after the elections, in order not to complicate political life for Netanyahu ahead of the vote with a proposal that would involve compromises by Israel, possibly including over Jerusalem.

It noted, too, that the election date falls two weeks after the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby’s annual police conference, where Netanyahu is a frequent speaker, to audiences of some 16,000 supporters of the US-Israel relationship. His trips to AIPAC usually feature a summit with the US president, and the TV report said Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, would doubtless be seeking to arrange a White House meeting with US President Donald Trump, which would give Netanyahu a pre-election boost.

US President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

In addition to increasing political uncertainty in Israel, the White House must also factor in how the peace plan will be received by the Palestinian Authority, whose president, Mahmoud Abbas, has boycotted the Trump administration since its recognition last December of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and who has vowed to oppose the deal.

At the end of November, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman denied that the Washington administration is considering postponing the publication of its peace proposal, saying that the plan will be released whenever it has the best chance of success.

The peace plan will be released when the administration thinks it has “maximized its potential for acceptance, execution and implementation,” the ambassador said in a statement. “Our timing, our strategy and our messaging is — and will be — entirely our own.”

On November 18, Channel 10 News first reported on a meeting to discuss a possible postponement, citing US officials as saying that Trump wants to see the plan rolled out by February, but that his advisers favor taking a more cautious approach in light of the political crisis engulfing Israel.

The potential collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government would be a key factor in determining when the US proposal should be unveiled, the officials told the news channel.

US President’s peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Friedman and other officials were said to be warning against releasing the proposal during an Israeli election campaign, in order to prevent the vote from becoming a referendum on the US plan.

On Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday the US peace plan will provide for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — a move he vowed to oppose.

Bennett did not give further specific details about the peace plan, which Donald Trump has referred to as “the deal of the century,” or disclose how he came to know of its contents.

“Trump’s deal of the century includes a Palestinian state, under certain conditions,” Bennett told Army Radio in an interview.

“We will object to that, because that means there will be another Arab entity west of the Jordan [river],” said Bennett, who leads the right-wing national-religious Jewish Home party.

Last week, outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on Israelis and Palestinians to back the US peace plan, saying it was far more “thoughtful” and creative than any that have come before.

Without revealing details of the plan, drawn up by Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner, Haley said it was far longer than past proposals and included elements that would have previously been “unthinkable.”

“There are things in the plan that every party will like, and there are things in the plan that every party will not like,” said Haley, who will be replaced by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Haley said that if countries focus solely on parts of the plan that they do not like, “we would return back to the failed status quo of the last 50 years with no prospects for change.”

But she said, “I assure you there is a lot for both sides to like.”

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