Israeli Challenger Gantz Accepts Trump’s White House Invitation

Ivan Levingston

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election opponent accepted invitations to the White House ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned release of a Middle East peace plan.

Netanyahu and former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz, locked in a close race for the March 2 election, are due to visit Washington early next week. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence invited both of them during a visit to Jerusalem on Thursday.

“The peace plan devised by President Trump will go down in history as a meaningful landmark,” Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White bloc, said in a statement. “These are fateful times, for both Israel’s borders and character, as well as its democratic fabric. Therefore, I have decided to accept the invitation extended to me by President Trump.”

That the U.S. invited both Netanyahu and Gantz is a sign of the dysfunction in Israeli politics. The upcoming election is the third in less than year, after two previous attempts resulted in no leader being able to put together a governing coalition.

Netanyahu, who’s been indicted on corruption charges, is campaigning on his diplomatic prowess and ties with Trump. Gantz, a political newcomer, faced the choice between risking being upstaged at the White House by Netanyahu, or appearing to turn his back on Israel’s key ally.

Netanyahu said Saturday he would head to Washington “full of hope that we are on the verge of a historic moment in the annals of our state,” and with “a sense of great mission.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ivan Levingston in Tel Aviv at ilevingston@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Tony Czuczka, Ros Krasny

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