Sep 20, 2019

Trump's Middle East envoy meets with Netanyahu after election loss

Jason Greenblatt and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Jason Greenblatt, President Trump's envoy for Middle East peace, met in Jerusalem Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The backdrop: As had been expected, Netanyahu failed to win a parliamentary majority as the final results of Israel's elections were published this morning.

  • The results showed that the Channel 13 exit poll published Tuesday that predicted Netanyahu’s defeat was accurate.
  • According to the final results, Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party is the biggest party with 33 seats while Netanyahu’s Likud managed only 31 seats.
  • Gantz’s center-left bloc leads with 57 seats, and Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc has 55 seats.

Why it matters: Since Trump entered the White House in 2017, his administration has mainly dealt with Netanyahu — foregoing close contacts to the opposition.

  • It especially has almost no contacts with Gantz.
  • The White House will have to use the next few weeks to recognize the new political reality in Israel and familiarize itself with the new political players.

The state of play: Greenblatt’s trip to the region was scheduled before the elections but will now be used to get the pulse on the ground regarding the new political situation and the formation of the new government.

  • A U.S. embassy official said Greenblatt will have discussions with various parties regarding the U.S.-Israel relationship, regional dynamics and the administration’s peace efforts.
  • Worth noting: Greenblatt is also in Israel for private reasons to participate in the wedding of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s daughter next week.

What's next: The Trump administration wanted to release its long anticipated peace plan after the elections — but that was predicated on the assumption Netanyahu would win and form a government.

  • The White House will have to review its strategy and decide whether to push forward with the peace plan — or postpone its release once again.
  • Greenblatt announced his departure from the administration earlier this month and had planned on leaving once the political side of the plan was launched.

Go deeper: Architect of Trump's Middle East peace plan to depart White House

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Scoop: Kushner expected to meet Netanyahu and Gantz on Israel trip

Kushner and Netanyahu. Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Jared Kushner will travel to Israel during the last week of October, Israeli officials tell me. He is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Benny Gantz, the man seeking to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.

Why it matters: Kushner knows Netanyahu well after their many meetings, but this will be his first meeting with Gantz since his entry into politics. This is another acknowledgement by the Trump administration, which had dealt solely with Netanyahu for two and a half years, that Gantz is a key political player in Israel.

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Trump's Middle East envoy to meet Benny Gantz

Benny Gantz. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Jason Greenblatt, President Trump's Middle East envoy, plans to meet next week with Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party that won this week's Israeli elections, Blue and White officials tell me.

Why it matters: This will be the first time a senior White House official meets Gantz since he entered politics a year ago, and the first recognition of Gantz as an important political player in Israel.

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Netanyahu pushes unity government to avoid fall from power

Bejamin Netanyahu addresses supporters on election night. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

If the Benjamin Netanyhahu era is coming to an end, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister is going out swinging.

By the numbers: Netanyahu’s Likud party is on course for 31 seats after Tuesday’s election, with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party winning 33, per Haaretz. But Gantz’s center-left bloc (57 seats) and Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc (55) are both short of the 61 seats needed for a majority.

Go deeperArrowSep 20, 2019