Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images
Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel's Blue and White party who is challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in upcoming elections, has accepted President Trump's invitation for a separate, one-on-one meeting at the White House on Monday.
Why it matters: A meeting between the U.S. president and a foreign opposition leader is very unusual. It indicates the importance the White House places on showing Gantz that he is respected and dispelling concerns he's walking into a political trap.
Gantz has few foreign policy credentials, and a meeting with the president of the U.S. is a significant achievement to show voters a month before the elections.
For the record: Two of Gantz's close advisers will accompany him to Washington. Yoram Turbowitz was the chief of staff to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and General Amir Eshel is a former commander of the Israeli air force. Eshel is Gantz’s point of contact with the Trump administration on the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, and he met for many hours with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman about the plan, which Trump said could be released on Tuesday.
What Gantz is saying: In a statement on Saturday, Gantz said the White House plan “will go down in history as a meaningful landmark, mapping the way for different players in the Middle East to finally move ahead towards a historic regional agreement”.
- "There is a special long-standing bond between the United States and Israel, built on shared values and joint interests. The United States is Israel's closest ally and friend, and under President Trump's leadership, the alliance between Israel and the United States has grown stronger, deeper and more significant than ever."
How it works: Netanyahu announced he will meet Trump separately at the White House on Monday and Tuesday.
Context: Gantz previously considered turning down Trump's White House invitation when Vice President Pence stated that Gantz was invited on Netanyahu's recommendation.
The big picture: Little more than a month remains before Israel's elections on March 2. Had Gantz rejected Trump's offer, he could've risked alienating the Trump and being seen as a politician who couldn't handle the relationship with Israel's most important ally.