Sat, 29 Feb 2020

Netanyahu, Gantz Meeting Separately with Trump

Voice of America
28 Jan 2020, 05:05 GMT+10

JERUSALEM - With just over a month to go before Israel's next election, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and chief rival Benny Gantz are holding separate meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington Monday. On the table is Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century," which will reportedly give Israel control over large parts of the West Bank. Some in Israel say Trump is trying to influence the election.

President Donald Trump has been working on his Israeli-Palestinian peace deal for almost as long as he has been in office. But it is only now, just ahead of Israel's third round of elections on March 2, that he is releasing the details of the plan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the plan is a great opportunity for Israel.

The prime minister also said he is leaving for Washington with a great sense of responsibility, and that he hoped he and President Trump would make history.

Netanyahu's rival, Benny Gantz, wrangled a private meeting with Trump, hoping to show that he is a serious contender for prime minister. But the focus in Israel has now shifted from corruption allegations against Netanyahu to the political and diplomatic sphere where he excels.

Details of the plan have not been released, but Israeli press reports say it gives Israel control over chunks of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, which runs along the border between the West Bank and Jordan.

Amos Yadlin, former head of military intelligence, says the plan is a dream from Israel's point of view.

Yadlin said that this plan offers parameters that are much better for Israel and include complete control over the Jordan Valley, control over the airspace in the West Bank and a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Palestinians, who have cut off all ties with the Trump administration, have responded angrily to the reported details. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Trump is interfering in Israel's election.

Shtayyeh said the move is meant to save Trump from impeachment and Netanyahu from going to jail.

Some Israeli analysts agree that Trump is trying to get Netanyahu, his friend, to win the election.

Mark Zell is the chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, a political group for Republicans who live outside the United States. Zell tells Israel Radio it could mean that the results of this third election will give Israelis what they wanted all along - a partnership between Netanyahu and Gantz.

"I think the president may well be trying to do something that is connected to the peace plan but somewhat apart from it, and that's to help Israel and the principal protagonists in the battle for the Israeli government, Netanyahu and Gantz, somehow overcome their difficulties and get together and form a unity government, so we can get on with the business of conducting foreign policy and defense here in the Middle East," he said.

Zell said the prior elections have failed to produce a government, and that the Deal of the Century could change that.

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