Netanyahu, Gantz to travel to Washington next week to discuss peace plan
VP Pence says they were invited to discuss ‘regional issues as well as the prospect of peace in the Holy Land’ • Trump: Reports regarding plan details are ‘purely speculative’
By LAHAV HARKOV, OMRI NAHMIAS, TOVAH LAZAROFF, MAAYAN HOFFMAN
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, are expected to be at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the “Deal of the Century” with US President Donald Trump.Preliminary reports Thursday indicated that the plan would give Israel sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and all the settlements and make Jerusalem the capital of Israel.Shortly thereafter Trump tweeted: “The United States looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister @Netanyahu & Blue & White Chairman @Gantzbe to the @WhiteHouse next week. Reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”At a meeting at the US Embassy in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, US Vice President Mike Pence invited Netanyahu and Gantz to Washington to discuss “regional issues as well as the prospect of peace in the Holy Land.”“The United States and Israel are strong partners, and the Prime Minister’s visit is an opportunity to discuss our shared regional and national security interests,” the White House said in a subsequent statement.“We’ve had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said following the invitation. “That friendship is expressed in the fact that we’re in the American Embassy in Jerusalem, that Jerusalem was recognized by President Trump as Israel’s capital, that President Trump has recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and now, with this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel peace and security, the peace and security that it deserves.“So, I gladly accept your invitation, his invitation to come to Washington and discuss with him his ideas on how to advance peace and to work closely with him to advance that goal,” the prime minister said. “With such friends in the White House, with such backing from the United States, we should get as broad a consensus as possible around the efforts to achieve security and peace, peace and security for the State of Israel.”AdvertisementKAN News speculated that the US plan allows for Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and settlements in Area C, as well as a for a demilitarized Palestinian state incorporating open portions of Area C.Channel 12 reported that apart from 15 isolated settlements, all of them will be linked contiguously, and Israel will be able to apply sovereignty immediately if it agrees to the plan. Moreover, Jerusalem would be undivided under Israeli control. In addition, all of Israel’s security demands were accepted.The peace plan includes demanding that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, demilitarize the Gaza Strip and take away Hamas’s weapons, and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Channel 12 reported.Under the plan, Palestinians reportedly will not have control of any borders.The US peace team headed by special adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Avi Berkowitz was expected to visit Israel this week to discuss the plan. However, the team canceled the trip at the last minute.The IDF reported on Thursday that it had increased security in the West Bank amid expectations of the rollout, expecting a potential violent escalation.A source close to Gantz said he saw the plan and does not think it will be politically damaging to him.News of the plan and its rollout was met with mixed reactions.Defense Minister Naftali Bennett responded that his right-wing Yamina Party would not allow any territory to be ceded to Arabs or for a Palestinian state to be established.“Israel may be facing a historic opportunity along with significant dangers,” he said.Beit El Council head Shai Alon warned that the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would create a second war front with the Palestinians, akin to Gaza.“According to reports, we are talking about recognition of a Palestinian state,” he said. “If that is correct, we are talking about a second Gaza war [in the West Bank] that will take place in the heart of the nation. We will see missiles on Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Hadera and other areas of Gush Dan.“The creation of a Palestinian state between the Jordan Valley and the sea will [push] the region to new heights of terrorism and violence that we have never known and do not want to know,” Alon said.However, the settler movement largely celebrated the potential upcoming move.“This is a dramatic historic moment,” Yesha head and Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani said. He called it a “huge diplomatic achievement for the prime minister.“The application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the [northwestern part of the] Dead Sea and settlements in Judea and Samaria is the fulfillment of the Zionist dream and a fateful moment in the history of the settlement movement,” Elhayani said.News of the possible imminent publication of the plan comes as Netanyahu is under pressure from Yamina to take steps as early as next week to annex the Jordan Valley and the Megilot region of the Dead Sea. However, sources said the White House had asked the prime minister to hold off on any unilateral moves until after publication of the US plan.Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said: “I don’t yet know what the ‘Deal of the Century’ includes, but I know full well what is the tragedy of the century: The solution for the [Arab-Israeli] conflict has been known for years, but the governments of Israel prefer [the Jewish settlements of] Ofra and Yitzhar to ending the occupation and a peaceful future of our children.”He said Netanyahu and Trump are attempting to “save each other” from their respective legal difficulties.Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi called the American invitation extended to Netanyahu and Gantz to visit the White House and learn the details of the deal “active participation in the Likud elections campaign.”“Never did a foreign element [such as the US] get so involved in the Israeli elections,” he said.“No American administration will be able to extinguish the aspiration of a people [Palestinians] to rid themselves of an occupier [Israel] and win its freedom,” Tibi said.