Trump to host Netanyahu, political rival at White House to discuss peace amid impeachment trial
Notably absent from the announcements was any mention of the Palestinians.
January 23, 2020, 5:04 PM
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted for bribery: AG saysThe announcement came after long investigations into the prime minister.Ammar Awad/Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top political challenger Benny Gantz will visit Washington next week to discuss peace in the Middle East, the White House announced Thursday.
President Donald Trump told reporters that he planned to "probably" release his administration's much-delayed plan for Middle East peace before the White House visit on Tuesday.
Vice President Mike Pence said he extended the invitation to Netanyahu and Gantz -- the leader of Israel's Blue and White party -- during his trip to Jerusalem, on behalf of Trump.
MORE: Trump flouts chummy relations with Netanyahu ahead of Israeli election
The timing of the visit could provide a distraction from the ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate.
Vice President Mike Pence stands next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Jan. 23, 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence stands next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Jan. 23, 2020.Ammar Awad/Reuters
The Trump administration has repeatedly delayed the release of a plan it has devised for peace between Israel and its neighbors, as political turmoil in Israel brought criminal charges against Netanyahu and two parliamentary elections in under seven months.
Notably absent from the administration's announcements was any mention of the Palestinians.
The White House declined to comment on whether it had also extended an invite to Palestinian officials, who cut off relations with the Trump administration in 2017 after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. They have also openly criticized Trump's actions as heavily biased in favor of Israel.
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One, as he flew to Florida, that "we've spoken to" Palestinian leaders "briefly" and "we will speak to them in a period of time." He said Palestinians "maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
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Bringing Netanyahu to the White House just over a month before the latest round of Israeli elections, scheduled for March 2, fits a pattern in which Trump has aimed to provide a domestic boost for his ally. The visit would allow the two leaders to put their close relationship before cameras.
While Gantz was also invited, Pence made clear the former military leader was an afterthought invited only after Netanyahu suggested he come, too.
Retired Israeli General Benny Gantz, one of the leaders of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) political alliance, tours an ancient tunnel road, "Pilgrims' Road", at the City of David...
Retired Israeli General Benny Gantz, one of the leaders of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) political alliance, tours an ancient tunnel road, "Pilgrims' Road", at the City of David archaeological site in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem on Jan. 14, 2020.Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images
Last year, just weeks before the elections in April, Trump announced in a tweet that the U.S. would recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, an area that overlooks the Jordan Valley; the move widely viewed as an attempt to help Netanyahu.
Days before another vote in September, Trump teased a conversation with Netanyahu about a possible mutual defense treaty.
MORE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicted for bribery, fraud, breach of trust
Both leaders accepted the invitation to come to Washington, according to the White House, and Netanyahu told reporters he would "gladly" come. Pence told reporters in Jerusalem that the meeting would include a discussion of "regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land."
File photo of President Donald Trump, left, and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu showing media the proclamation Trump signed on recognizing Israel's sovereignty over Golan...
File photo of President Donald Trump, left, and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu showing media the proclamation Trump signed on recognizing Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights after their meeting outside the West Wing of the White House on March 25, 2019, in Washington.File photo/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Amid hundreds of tweets about his impeachment trial, Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday that the U.S. looked forward to hosting Gantz and Netanyahu.
He later said on Air Force One that he was "surprised" and "impressed that both of them came off the campaign trail.”
'It's a great plan': Trump to release Middle East peace proposal before meeting with Israeli leaders
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will release his long-delayed Middle East peace plan before a surprise meeting next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief political rival, Benjamin Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One as he traveled to Florida. He said the White House will release the secretive deal "a little bit prior" to the meeting with Netanyahu and Gantz in Washington.
That unusual session, set for Tuesday, comes as Israel lurches toward a third election on March 2, which will pit Netanyahu's conservative Likud party against Gantz's more centrist Blue and White party. Israeli voters have twice failed to give either faction a clear majority, leading to an unprecedented third showdown.
Vice President Mike Pence first confirmed next week's visit during a trip to Jerusalem on Thursday. Pence made it clear they were not initially planning to invite Gantz, the former head of Israel's military.
"President Trump asked me to extend an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to the White House next week to discuss regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land," Pence said.
"At the prime minister’s suggestion, I also extended an invitation to Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party, and he has accepted the invitation," the vice president said.
Trump expressed surprise that they both agreed to come to Washington so soon before the election. “We have both candidates coming – unheard of,” he said.
Netanyahu has made his close relationship with the American president a centerpiece of his campaign, and Trump has made it clear he favors Netanyahu. Although Trump hasn't officially endorsed Netanyahu, he has made a series of policy pronouncements that seemed timed to boost the Israeli incumbent ahead of the two previous elections.
Last spring, for example, Trump recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a disputed territory. Trump's decision reversed decades of U.S. policy; previous American presidents labeled the territory "occupied" and declined to recognize Israel's annexation.
Trump tasked his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner to craft the peace plan early in his presidency. Trump has touted the proposal as the “Deal of the Century.” But its rollout has been repeatedly delayed and its fate is bleak.
If the White House does release the proposal next week, it may be viewed as yet another effort to help Netanyahu as he vies to hold onto power in Israel. Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and bribery.
Trump touted the deal on Thursday, even as he conceded the Palestinians might not like it.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly," Trump said of Palestinian leaders. "They have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive for them.”
The plan is unlikely to break the decades-long stalemate between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The White House has alienated the Palestinians with a series of provocative actions, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and cutting U.S. aid to Palestinian refugees.
In the wake of those steps, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has refused to engage with the Trump administration, saying the White House is not a neutral broker.
“I’d love to be able to do that deal," Trump said Thursday. "They say that’s the hardest of all deals.”
Contributing: David Jackson
View: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1220428541197799424?ref_src=twsrc^tfwTrump said he will announce/release his Peace Plan before his upcoming meeting with both Netanyahu and Gants at the White House. (plan to be released between now and Tuesday Jan 28)
Sorry, I did as good as I could on getting these to post.
The visit seemed time to provide a distraction from the Senate impeachment trial. Notably absent from the announcements was any mention of the Palestinians.abcnews.go.com
Netanyahu, who has adopted Trump's language and messaging tactics in a bid to align himself with the American president -- widely popular in Israel -- was charged in November with fraud, bribery and breach of trust.
He is currently seeking immunity from prosecution even as he campaigns to hold his office. View: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1220428541197799424?ref_src=twsrc^tfw