Trump to meet with Israeli leaders amid likely peace plan unveiling

Jerusalem/Washington - By Eliyahu Kamisher and Sara Lemel, - US President Donald Trump will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political opponent, Benny Gantz, at the White House on Tuesday, the president said.

The president is also expected to release a long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan around the same time.

"Probably we’ll release it a little bit prior to [the White House meeting]," Trump told reporters travelling with him on Thursday.

Trump has been suggesting for months that he could soon unveil the plan for Israel and the Palestinians. But the timing has been complicated by the two general elections held in Israel last year and an unprecedented third election in March.
Earlier on Thursday, speaking from the US embassy in Jerusalem, US Vice President Mike Pence announced that Trump had invited Netanyahu to the White House next week to "discuss regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land." 
Netanyahu had suggested that his rival, Gantz, also be invited. Gantz had accepted the invitation, Pence said.
"I suggested that Benny Gantz be invited to this event as well, because I think that it's important that we do not lose this historic opportunity," Netanyahu said.
"With such friends in the White House," Netanyahu said, there should be "as broad a consensus as possible."
The last election in September was followed by months of political deadlock, forcing a repeat election, to be held this coming March, in which Netanyahu and Gantz once again go head-to-head.
President Donald Trump vowed long ago to introduce a plan that would bring peace to the region and instructed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to take the lead.
While a vague economic plan was announced, no political segment was forthcoming. Analysts have been highly sceptical of any plan having a chance of success.
There is concern that the unwavering pro-Israel stance of the Trump administration could empower an Israeli government to annex territory on the West Bank.
Trump said he has spoken "briefly" with the Palestinians.
The Palestinians "have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first but it’s actually very positive for them."  
Palestinians have rejected Washington's decades-old role as Middle East peace negotiator, saying Trump has already sided with Israel.
Pence made the announcement while in Israel for events marking the liberation of Auschwitz 75 years ago.
"I’d love to be able to do that deal," Trump said. "They say that’s the hardest of all deals." 

Friday, January 24th 2020
By Eliyahu Kamisher and Sara Lemel,

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