Netanyahu, Gantz to visit Trump, discuss peace plan next week

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to meet with President Trump and other officials and discuss a long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

Vice President Pence said during a meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem that Trump had asked him to invite Netanyahu to Washington to discuss “regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land.”

Netanyahu “gladly accepted” the invitation.

Pence said he would also invite Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s political rival and the leader of Israel’s Blue and White Party. The two have been unable to form coalition governments following elections last year, casting uncertainty over Israel’s leadership situation.

The White House confirmed a short time later that the two men would visit on Tuesday, with Trump tweeting that  any “reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”

But Trump later told reporters aboard Air Force One that he plans to release details of the peace plan ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

“Sometime prior to that. Probably we’ll release it a little bit prior to that,” Trump said while en route to Florida.

Trump said he had spoken “briefly” to the Palestinians about the plan, though it’s unclear when. Palestinian officials essentially cut off talks with Washington after the Trump administration announced it would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“They have a lot of incentive to do it,” Trump said of the Palestinians. “I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first but it’s actually very positive for them.”

The Trump administration has promised since 2017 that it would deliver a groundbreaking proposal to ensure peace between Israelis, Palestinians and other stakeholders in the Middle East. It has unveiled snippets of its plans, including an economic component, but many of the specifics remain under wraps.

The White House has been unable to secure buy-in from Palestinian officials who vehemently oppose Trump policies such as moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Jason Greenblatt, the special envoy to the Middle East and a key architect of the peace plan, left the White House last year, throwing its fate into question. A senior official said at the time that the proposal was “complete,” but would not say when it would be released.

Officials had previously signaled they would withhold the specifics of the plan until after Israel’s elections. But both Gantz and Netanyahu failed to form governing coalitions after two cycles last year, and Israel is set to hold another election in March.

The visit from the Israeli leaders and potential unveiling of a peace plan coincides with Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. His defense team is expected to begin its arguments on Saturday and could finish by Tuesday, teeing up a vote on whether to hear from additional witnesses.

Trump is also scheduled to rally supporters in New Jersey on Tuesday night, hours after he welcomes Netanyahu and Gantz to the White House.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is facing his own scandal. The staunch Trump ally was indicted last year on charges of bribery and fraud. He has denied wrongdoing and said he would seek immunity from the charges.

The Knesset is scheduled to consider the immunity request on Tuesday.

—Updated at 6:03 p.m.

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Benny Gantz Donald Trump Israel Middle East peace plan

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