Israel's Gantz says he will meet Trump about US Middle East proposal
Israeli centrist party leader Benny Gantz said on Saturday he had accepted an invitation to meet US President Donald Trump on Monday to discuss Trump's proposal for Israel and Palestine, which may be released on Tuesday.
Gantz is the main domestic political rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also travelling to Washington to meet Trump on Monday and Tuesday as well, according to Haaretz.
Still, Palestinian leaders have warned that no deal can work without them on board. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014 and Palestinians have called Trump's proposal dead in the water even before its publication, Reuters said. The Palestinian leadership said that there had been no communication with the Trump administration.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Washington can no longer be regarded as an honest mediator, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. This followed a series of Trump decisions that delighted Israel but dismayed and infuriated Palestinians.
These included the US recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Palestinians.
Trump invited both Israeli leaders to hear details of the White House's long-delayed proposal ahead of an Israeli election in March, the third in less than a year.
Israeli political analysts had viewed the US invitation as a pre-election boost to Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud Party and is Israel's longest-serving prime minister.
Gantz, a former general, heads the Blue and White Party. His attendance in Washington had been in doubt, but on Saturday night he said that he had been in contact with senior White House officials for months and that he had decided to go.
The launch of Trump's proposal, dubbed by some as the "Deal of the Century," has been delayed numerous times over the past two years.
The political aspects of the initiative have been closely guarded. Only the economic proposals, including a $50bn investment plan put forward by Trump adviser Jared Kushner, have been announced. The plan is a jargon-laden economic roadmap on how to distribute more investment, MEE reported at the time.
A source familiar with the US team's thinking said bringing both Netanyahu and Gantz in on the details is aimed at defusing any suggestion that Trump might be favouring one Israeli candidate over another.
Still, while Gantz managed to secure a separate meeting with Trump in the midst of an election campaign, it will be of a lower profile than Netanyahu's meetings with Trump: the two will not deliver a joint statement and their meeting will take place without media presence, Haaretz reported.
After Gantz's announcement that he will go to Washington, Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member Wassel Abu Youssef told Reuters: "Blue and White and Likud [Netanyahu's party] are two faces of the same coin. There is an alliance between the US administration and the Israeli parties running into the election."
Speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah, he added: "We will not accept the 'Deal of the Century' and there is no power on earth that can force the Palestinian people to concede their rights, represented in establishing their independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital."