Gantz Debating Whether to Accept Trump’s Invite to Discuss Peace Plan

Vice President Pence said Thursday Gantz was invited at Netanyahu’s suggestion, a statement Kahol Lavan perceived as humiliating

Benny Gantz at a Kahol Lavan party meeting, December 25, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz is debating whether to accept the invitation by U.S. President Donald Trump to meet at the White House on Tuesday ahead of the unveiling of the Mideast peace plan.

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accepted the invitation, and that Netanyahu had suggested Gantz travel to Washington as well. Kahol Lavan did not officially confirm Gantz's attendance and perceived Pence's statement as publicly humiliating.

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Netanyahu is set to fly out to Washington on Sunday afternoon and return to Israel by Wednesday.

Trump said overnight Thursday he will release the details of the so-called “Deal of the Century” for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement in the coming days. So far, the U.S. has refrained from publishing the deal due to the ongoing political crisis in Israel and the series of general elections. 

However, the Trump administration has recently announced that the plan will be released on January 28. Gantz, who opposed the move on the grounds that it would constitute a “prize” for Netanyahu, changed his position earlier this week and called on Trump to release the plan.

Gantz’s aides are preparing for a Washington visit in case he decides to accept Trump’s invitation. Gantz will give a public statement on the matter on Saturday. Kahol Lavan members also cancelled their appearances in cultural events.

A source from Kahol Lavan said Thursday that the Trump administration is aiding Netanyahu by allowing him to postpone the Knesset's deliberation on his request for immunity from prosecution, slated for next Tuesday.

Kahol Lavan made it clear Thursday that there is no intention to change the timetable for discussions on Netanyahu's request for immunity. "When [Knesset Speaker] Yuli Edelstein announced that the hearing would be held on Tuesday, we estimated he did so knowing that Netanyahu and Gantz would be invited to Washington that day," said party officials. 

"The White House just came to Netanyahu's help. As of now, we have no intention of postponing the Knesset vote next week. If necessary we will convene without Gantz and Netanyahu."

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman addressed the move by the U.S. on Friday, saying that presenting the peace plan five weeks before the election, precisely on the day when the the Knesset is set to vote on Netanyahu's immunity "will prevent a thorough and in-depth discussion of one of the most important political initiatives in recent years."

Israeli officials said that the plan would promise the application of Israeli sovereignty to all existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, in addition to annexing the Jordan Valley, which would become Israel's eastern border.