Gantz visits the West Bank. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images
Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel's Blue and White Party, told President Trump in their Oval Office meeting today that he supports Trump's Middle East peace plan but wants to move ahead with it only after Israel's elections on March 2nd.
Why it matters: Gantz is the primary electoral rival for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival and wants a green light from Trump to annex parts of the West Bank immediately after the plan is presented. Gantz indicated major steps should wait until Israel has a new, stable government.
Gantz's meeting with Trump was widely seen as an achievement, given he holds no official position. He had considered skipping the trip to Washington out of fear he'd be sidelined by Trump and overshadowed by Netanyahu.
- Facing corruption indictments at home, Netanyahu is leaning on his connection with Trump as a reason to re-elect him.
- The peace plan will play a central role in the coming elections, Israel's third in the span of a year.
What he's saying: Gantz called the plan “a significant and historic milestone."
“Immediately after the elections, I will work toward implementing it from within a stable functioning Israeli government, in tandem with the other countries in our region."— Gantz
He also said he and Trump discussed “the importance of dialogue with the Palestinians, the neighboring countries and the King of Jordan."
- The Palestinians have boycotted talks over the peace plan and are expected to emphatically reject it. Trump said earlier today that there could be "no deal without the Palestinians."
The bottom line: Gantz’s remarks show he views Trump's plan as a chance to restart the peace process, but in such a way as to get the Palestinians back to the table and involve the Arab states.