Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (Photo: IANS)
Benny Gantz, the main political rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday accepted an invitation to visit the White House and announced that he will meet US President Donald Trump in Washington to discuss a Middle East peace plan.
Addressing to the media, Gantz said that he will meet President Trump on Monday, a day before the US President is scheduled to meet Netanyahu to discuss the same plan.
“The plan will be a major cornerstone that defines the way the different sides can make their way towards a historic, regional agreement,” Gantz said.
Initially the US invitation was for both Gantz and Netanyahu to meet Trump together.
According to media reports, Trump could release the plan before the elections in Israel on March 2.
If Trump releases his much-touted Middle East peace plan – crafted by his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner – before Israel’s next election, that may also be viewed as an effort to help Netanyahu as he vies to hold onto power in Israel. Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and bribery.
The White House did not say whether Trump will unveil the peace plan publicly or only talk with the two Israeli leaders about it behind closed doors.
Israel is slated to hold general elections in March and an interim government does not have the mandate to make far-reaching decisions on matters such as the country’s future borders.
The Palestinians have not been part of the talks on the plan.
The Prime Minister has been indicted on corruption charges and his request for immunity from trial is supposed to be discussed at the Israeli Parliament the same time when he is in Washington.
The plan is believed to be very favourable to the right-wing Israeli government.
Taking to Twitter, PM Netanyahu said, “This is a historic opportunity that must not be missed”.
Netanyahu had a tense and at times bitter relationship with former President Barack Obama. Now, he is looking to bolster his perch as Israel’s steward of the relationship with Washington, in part to defend himself against challenges from right-wing members of his party.
In 2017, the Trump-Netanyahu meeting at the White House had covered Iran, Syria, ISIS and the two countries’ ties.