Trump Says Mideast Peace Plan to Be Unveiled Before Tuesday

Jordan Fabian

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he plans to release the Middle East peace plan that he’s been promising since his 2016 campaign, promising it before Israeli leaders visit the White House on Tuesday.

“Sometime prior to that,” Trump told reporters Thursday aboard Air Force One when asked when the White House will put forward the plan. “We’ll probably release it a little bit prior to them coming.”

Vice President Mike Pence invited Israeli political rivals Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to Washington next week as the two leaders remain locked in a domestic political stalemate.

Pence announced the invitation Thursday during a visit to Israel. The president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been preparing the peace plan since Trump took office.

The hurdles to any peace accord are legion: It would require a resolution of how much of the occupied West Bank -- portions of which are densely populated with Jewish settlers -- would remain under Israeli control, whether Palestinian refugees across the region would have the right to return to their ancestral lands and whether East Jerusalem could serve as a Palestinian capital.

That the U.S. invited both Netanyahu and Gantz is a sign of the current dysfunction in Israeli politics. On March 2 the country will hold its third election in less than a year after two previous attempts resulted in no leader being able to cobble together a governing coalition.

Palestinian leaders have spurned talks with the Trump administration, citing what they have called a series of moves showing favor toward Israel. Those include moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights and proclaiming that Israeli settlements in the West Bank aren’t necessarily illegal.

“I’m sure they maybe will act negatively at first but it’s actually very positive for them,” Trump said Thursday of the Palestinians. “But they have a lot of incentive to do it.”

Trump didn’t divulge details of the proposal.

“Honestly, it’s a great plan,” Trump said. “It’s a plan that really would work.”

Pence said Trump asked him to invite Netanyahu to the White House, and that Netanyahu urged the U.S. to invite his rival Gantz as well. Netanyahu, the current prime minister, said he asked that Gantz be invited in order to get as broad a consensus as possible.

The visit will occur as the second week of Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate is underway and may provide a welcome distraction for the president. Netanyahu has been hobbled by an indictment over alleged corruption late last year. He’s since asked parliament to grant him immunity from prosecution on those charges, a move that doesn’t have majority backing in the Knesset.

Gantz, a retired lieutenant general, vowed to work toward annexing West Bank land should he become the country’s next leader, in a ploy for right-wing votes that many analysts think would also play into the draft U.S. plan.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority president, said before Trump’s comments that if a peace plan is announced, “The leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel to assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power.”

(Updates with leaders’ planned visit to Washington in third paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan Fabian in Washington at jfabian6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Larry Liebert

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