The White House said Thursday it has invited Israel’s prime minister and his main political rival to Washington next week to discuss the “prospect of peace” with the Palestinians, who have already rejected the administration’s long-awaited peace plan.
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request an invitation has also been issued to Benny Gantz, a former army chief and Netanyahu’s main rival in March 2 elections.
The announcement indicated that the White House may be ready to release its peace plan after several delays. The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the West Bank.
* Israeli sovereignty in all 100-plus West Bank settlements, all but 15 of which would be territoriality contiguous. (An estimated 400,000 Jews live in some 120 official settlements.)
* Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, including the Old City, with only “symbolic Palestinian representation” in Jerusalem.
* Were Israel to accept the deal, and the Palestinians to reject it, Israel would have US support to begin annexing settlements unilaterally.
* Palestinian will be granted statehood, but only if Gaza is demilitarized, Hamas gives up its weapons, and the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital.
* No Palestinian role in any border controls.
* Full Israeli security control in the Jordan Valley.
* Israeli sovereignty in all “open territory” in West Bank’s Area C. The TV report said this amounted to some 30 percent of the West Bank.
* The acceptance of all Israeli security demands.
* Some limited land swaps in which expanded Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank would be exchanged for minor territorial compensation in the Negev.
* Possible minor absorption of Palestinian refugees in Israel; no compensation for refugees.
The U.S. was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a re-election battle this year.
President Donald Trump later dampened the speculation, tweeting that he looks forward to welcoming Netanyahu and Gantz to the White House, but that “reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”
Pence said they would “discuss regional issues as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land.”
Netanyahu said he “gladly” accepted the invitation.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” he said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
Neither Pence nor Netanyahu mentioned the Palestinians, and no Palestinians are expected to attend the talks at the White House.
The Palestinians rejected President Donald Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the U.S. Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC / AP)