Jan 22, 2020

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.

Between the lines: The U.S. officials said the Trump administration has made its position clear to the Israeli government, and Netanyahu is aware that the U.S. doesn’t want Israel to take any unilateral steps before the peace plan is published.

Details: Netanyahu's new annexation statements came after his main opponent in upcoming elections, Benny Gantz, visited the Jordan Valley and announced he will annex the Jordan Valley "in coordination with the international community" if he wins on March 2.

  • Netanyahu quickly announced he is ready to bring annexation to a vote in the Knesset.
  • A Twitter brawl erupted between the prime minister and Gantz after Netanyahu's announcement — with the politicians attacking each other for not being serious about annexation.
  • The back-and-forth underscores the fierce fight for right-wing voters.

The bottom line: It is still unclear when the U.S. peace plan will be presented. U.S. officials say Trump is expected to announce his decision in the next few days.

  • President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner had been scheduled to arrive in Israel Wednesday to discuss the issue with Netanyahu and Gantz, but cancelled his trip due to bad weather.
  • Kushner was also supposed to visit Israel to participate in an international conference on fighting anti-Semitism.

Go deeper: Trump to decide in coming days on when to release Middle East peace plan

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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.

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Pro-Netanyahu media turns on Jared Kushner

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Pro-Netanyahu commentators in the Israeli media started on Sunday what looked like an orchestrated campaign against President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, attacking him for stopping the Israeli prime minister from annexing parts of the West Bank after the unveiling of the White House peace plan last Tuesday.

Why it matters: The right-wing commentators who were attacking Kushner on various media outlets in Israel on Sunday are Netanyahu supporters and surrogates. When comparing their tweets and remarks on the air, they largely used many of the same talking points.

Go deeperArrowFeb 2, 2020 - World

Trump to release Mideast peace plan, meet with Israeli leaders

Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel's embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz have been invited to the White House next week for discussions on President Trump's long-promised Mideast peace plan, Israeli sources say.

Driving the news: Trump said on a flight to Florida Thursday that he's "probably" going to release his Mideast plan "a little bit prior" to the meeting on Jan. 28. The meeting is set for the same time as a planned vote in the Knesset over Netanyahu's bid for immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 24, 2020