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Netanyahu, Gantz Invited to US to Talk Peace

Netanyahu, Gantz Invited to US to Talk Peace

Thursday, 23 January, 2020 - 20:00
FILE PHOTO: The White House is awash with early morning sun in Washington November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Asharq Al-Awsat

US President Donald Trump has invited Israel's PM and his election rival to Washington next week to discuss the White House Middle East peace plan, Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday.

"President Trump asked me to extend an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to the White House next week to discuss regional issues as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land," Pence said after meeting Netanyahu at the US embassy in Jerusalem.

There was no mention of the Palestinians, and Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We warn Israel and the US administration not to cross any red lines."

Pence's dramatic announcement raised speculation that the White House is finally preparing to unveil its long-awaited Mideast peace plan after numerous delays.

But Trump said “reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”

Pence said Netanyahu had asked that his chief opponent, Benny Gantz, also be invited, and that both men had agreed to come.

Netanyahu’s office said he would fly to the US on Sunday.

The right-wing Israeli leader faces political and legal troubles at home - he is heading for his third election in less than a year, and he was indicted on criminal charges in November.

Israeli political analysts viewed Trump's invitation as a boost to his right-wing ally.

Gantz, a centrist former general, this week lifted his objection to having the peace plan be published before Israel's March election. He had previously objected to it as interference in the vote.

The Trump administration has reversed decades of US policy on the conflict, refraining from endorsing the “two-state solution” - the longtime international formula which envisages a Palestinian state co-existing with Israel.

It has also recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved its embassy there.

More recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in November that the United States no longer viewed Israel’s settlements on West Bank land as "inconsistent with international law".

Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said Trump’s peace plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel, and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.

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