U.S. gave Benny Gantz a heads-up on settlements announcement
Before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement yesterday on the legality of Israeli settlements, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman notified Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political rival, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.
Why it matters: Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, effectively tied with Netanyahu in Israel's election two months ago. Gantz was asked to form a government after Netanyahu failed to do so, but his mandate expires on Wednesday. There was speculation that the U.S. announcement was timed to help Netanyahu politically.
Gantz did not object to the content or timing of the U.S. announcement, according to the officials.
- One U.S. official said that if Gantz raised reservations on the grounds that he was close to forming a government, the U.S. would probably have delayed the move.
- Gantz publicly welcomed Pompeo's announcement, tweeting: "I applaud the U.S. government for its important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security of the Middle East."
- U.S. officials tell me the announcement was not intended to help either party and the heads-up to Gantz was intended to ensure that the planned U.S. announcement did not interfere in domestic Israeli politics and harm Gantz's efforts to form a government. "There is never good timing because things happen in Israel all the time," they said.
- Pompeo said yesterday that the announcement followed a lengthy legal process.