Jan 21, 2020

Gantz changes course, calls on Trump to release Middle East peace plan

A banner for Gantz (right) near one of Netanyahu and Trump ahead of September's elections. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Benny Gantz, leader of Israel's Blue and White Party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's top political rival, backtracked today on his request that President Trump not release his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan before Israel's March 2nd elections.

Why it matters: This removes a major obstacle to the plan's release. The shift seems to be based on a calculation that if Trump were to release the plan in coordination with Netanyahu, and against his wishes, Gantz would appear to lack influence in Washington.

Catch up quick: U.S. and Israeli officials expect Trump to decide within days whether to release the plan before March, as I reported on Sunday.

  • Gantz had previously said releasing the plan — which Netanyahu could use to rally his base — would constitute interference in Israeli politics.
  • But during a visit to the Jordan Valley in the West Bank today, Gantz justified his flip flop: "Three weeks have passed and a lot of dramatic things have happened in the Middle East — so I hope the president presents his plan soon."
  • Gantz also said for the first time that he would annex the Jordan Valley if elected, “in coordination with the international community" — a sign he is courting right-wing voters. Annexation of the Jordan Valley is a pillar of Netanyahu's platform.

Netanyahu was quick to respond, issuing a statement calling on Gantz to pass a vote on annexation in the Israeli parliament before the elections. That would be legally questionable, as the Knesset has been dissolved.

Go deeper

White House opposes Israel's West Bank annexation prior to release of peace plan

Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Benny Gantz. Photos: Sean Gallup/Getty Staff, Jack Guez/Getty Contributor

The White House is opposed to Israel's moves to annex the West Bank prior to the release of the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, senior U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he wants Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to vote on the annexation of the Jordan Valley as soon as next week, but the White House position dramatically reduces the chances of that happening.

Go deeperArrowJan 22, 2020

Israel's Netanyahu, Gantz take a break from campaigning to visit the White House

Benny Gantz, Blue and White Party leader. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

The two main contenders in Israel’s March 2 elections — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of Blue and White party Benny Gantz — separately meet with President Trump today at the White House to discuss his peace plan, which is expected to be released tomorrow.  

Why it matters: Trump made this unusual move of inviting Netanyahu and Gantz, who is considered a party leader but holds no official position, because he wants to make sure both are on board regarding his peace plan, regardless of who wins the elections.

Go deeperArrowJan 27, 2020

Gantz considers turning down Trump's White House invitation

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel's Blue and White party and the main political opponent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is considering turning down President Trump’s invitation to come to Washington next week to discuss the U.S. Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The big picture: Blue and White officials tell me Gantz and his aides are concerned the invitation to Washington is a political trap orchestrated by Netanyahu a little more than a month before the country's elections on March 2.

Go deeperArrowJan 24, 2020