Pence Invites Netanyahu, Gantz to White House

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S Vice President Mike Pence during their meeting at the U.S embassy in Yerushalayim, Thursday. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his election rival Benny Gantz to Washington next week to discuss the U.S. Middle East peace plan, a U.S. official said on Thursday.

“We just completed a conversation about plans for next week. President Trump asked me to extend an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to the White House next week for talks” on regional issues, including peace, Pence said alongside the prime minister Thursday night. He did not say anything explicit about the Trump administration peace plan, long delayed, but that is what it seems to be about.

“At the prime minister’s suggestion, I also extended an invitation to Benny Gantz,” he added, noting that the Blue and White leader had accepted the invitation.

“I suggested that Benny Gantz be invited to this event as well because I think it is important that we not lose this historic opportunity with such friends in the White House,” Netanyahu said. “We should get as broad as consensus as possible.”

The White House issued a statement confirming the visit for January 28, without mentioning the Mideast peace plan. “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 statement said.

The plan was described as the most generous U.S. proposal ever for Israel, an unsourced Channel 12 report said, likely providing for Israeli sovereignty for its communities in Yehuda and Shomron alongside a recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Also envisages is a “significant moving of the [Israeli] border” eastwards, though the report offered no details.

The Palestinians have already denounced the plan, based on leaked reports from diplomatic sources.

Resistance to it will likely come from within Israel as well. Responding to the reports, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said his Yamina alliance would oppose any plan that includes “transferring land to Arabs or the establishing of a Palestinian state.

“President Trump, [Jared] Kushner and Ambassador [David] Friedman are true friends of Israel. It is likely that Israel faces a historic opportunity, along with significant risks,” he said in a statement.