Gantz, Netanyahu's election rival, to meet Trump on 'peace plan'

Israel's PM Netanyahu is also travelling to Washington to discuss a so-called 'deal of the century' for the Middle East.

    The Palestinians, who were not invited to the White House meeting with Netanyahu, immediately rejected the US-hosted talks [File: Amir Levy/Getty Images]
    The Palestinians, who were not invited to the White House meeting with Netanyahu, immediately rejected the US-hosted talks [File: Amir Levy/Getty Images]

    Israeli centrist party leader Benny Gantz said he has accepted an invitation to meet United States President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday to discuss a "peace plan" Trump has called the "deal of the century" for the Middle East.

    Gantz is the main election rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also travelling to Washington for a meeting with Trump.

    But Palestinian leaders have warned that no deal can work without them on board.

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    Trump invited both Israeli leaders to hear details of the White House's long-delayed "peace plan" ahead of an Israeli election in March, the third in less than a year.

    Israeli political analysts had viewed the US invitation as a pre-election boost to Netanyahu, Trump's right-wing ally. Gantz's attendance had been in doubt but he has decided to go.

    "These are fateful times both for Israel's borders and character, as well as its democratic fabric," Gantz said in broadcast remarks.

    "The peace plan devised by President Trump will go down in history as a meaningful landmark mapping the way for the different players in the Middle East to finally move forward towards an historical and regional agreement," Gantz added.

    Netanyahu also issued a statement on Saturday calling the Trump initiative a "once in history" opportunity.

    Political aspect

    The launch of Trump's plan to end the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been delayed numerous times over the past two years.

    The political aspects of the initiative have been closely guarded. Only the economic proposals, including a $50bn investment plan put forward by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have been unveiled.

    A source familiar with the peace team's thinking said bringing both Netanyahu and Gantz in on the details is aimed at defusing any suggestion that Trump might be favouring one Israeli candidate over another.

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    Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014 and Palestinians have called Trump's proposal dead in the water even before its publication.

    On Friday, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said there had been no communication with the Trump administration and no peace deal could be implemented without the approval of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership.

    Abbas has accused Washington of pro-Israel bias and said it could no longer be regarded as an honest mediator. This followed a series of Trump's decisions that delighted Israel but dismayed and infuriated Palestinians.

    These included recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel followed by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency