Editorial

Immunity Trap in the White House

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz speaks in Tel Aviv, January 8, 2020.
Moti Milrod

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz has accepted U.S. President Donald Trump’s invitation to meet with him at the White House on Monday, separately from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz will return to Israel in time to take part in the Knesset debate on convening the Knesset House Committee to discuss Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution.

Gantz made a shrewd decision, avoiding the trap Netanyahu laid for him via the prime minister’s friend in the White House. He also did well to make clear that replacing Netanyahu is still at the top of his Kahol Lavan party’s agenda.

Gantz was wise to refuse to attend a joint meeting with Trump and Netanyahu to present the White House plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In doing so, he refused to fall into the rhetorical trap of Netanyahu and the right in which the proposal is a historic opportunity requiring the Netanyahu government to remain in power. The Middle East waited more than three years for Trump’s peace plan, and it will survive the five weeks that remain until the Israeli election.

In his announcement, Gantz praised the president’s proposal. But the timing of its publication – the week the debate on Netanyahu’s immunity request begins and as Netanyahu tries shamelessly to postpone the hearings – suggests that Trump wasn’t motivated by a desire for conciliation between the two peoples and concern for their future and welfare. Rather, he was concerned for Netanyahu’s welfare and political and legal future. It might be a wise move in terms of the political chess game, but it’s not clear why the peace plan itself came in for praise.

The proposal hasn’t yet been made public, but according to Israeli sources it will guarantee Israeli sovereignty over all the settlements and the annexation of the Jordan Valley. These sources say a Palestinian rejection of the plan would set the ball rolling for measures of unilateral annexation. The Palestinians, who were not briefed on the imminent publication of the political part of the so-called peace plan, reject the proposal entirely. That’s not surprising.

The Trump administration didn’t bother to do anything to make the Palestinians feel that the United States is an honest broker and that their interests were taken into consideration; it sometimes seems that the Palestinians aren’t even a party to the issue.

For years now, the Americans have been giving carrots to Israel and sticks to the Palestinians. They moved their embassy to Jerusalem, cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights and now appear to be giving a green light for annexation and the settlements.

It’s obvious to the Palestinians and anyone with a brain that this is an agreement between the settler right and the Americans behind the back of the Palestinian partner. It must be reiterated: A plan that does not promise hope and a future to the Palestinians and whose sole purpose is to give the status quo a U.S. seal of approval cannot end the conflict. It can only deepen it.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.