U.S. President Donald Trump is holding back-to-back meetings Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger Benny Gantz ahead of the unveiling of the U.S. administration’s much-anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The meetings come just a month before Netanyahu and Gantz are set to face off in national elections for the third time in less than a year and amid much speculation over whether the plan has any chance for success since the Palestinians haven’t been consulted and have preemptively rejected any proposal from a White House it considers biased toward Israel.
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The so-called “Deal of the Century” is expected to be very favourable to Israel, and Netanyahu has hailed it as a chance to “make history” and define Israel’s final borders.
In the run-up to the March 2 vote, Netanyahu has called for annexing parts of the West Bank and imposing Israeli sovereignty on all its settlements there. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Jordan Valley in particular is considered a vital security asset.
Reports in Israeli media have speculated Trump’s plan could include the possible annexation of large pieces of territory that the Palestinians seek for a future independent state. American approval could give Netanyahu the type of cover to go ahead with a move that he’s resisted taking for more than a decade in power.
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Annexing Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank would appeal to Netanyahu’s hard-line nationalist supporters but would almost certainly torpedo the viability of an independent Palestinian state and likely infuriate neighbouring Jordan. In 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty, the second between Israel and its Arab neighbours after Egypt.
Netanyahu, with an eye to his base, invited several settler leaders to join him in Washington for the rollout of the plan.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh denounced the still-unpublished proposal again Monday in Ramallah, saying it “doesn’t constitute a basis for resolving the conflict.” He said the plan violates international law and “comes from a party that has lost its credibility to be an honest broker in a serious and genuine political process.”
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A Palestinian official said that President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected overtures from mediators in recent weeks to arrange a phone call with Trump. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing a classified diplomatic issue.