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White House Invites Israeli Rivals to Talks

No mention is made of Palestinians attending meetings next week
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 23, 2020 4:01 PM CST
Benny Gantz, right, reaches out to shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a memorial for former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his wife, Leah, last November.   (Heidi Levine/Pool via AP)

(Newser) – The White House said Thursday it has invited Israel's prime minister and his main political rival to Washington next week to discuss the "prospect of peace" with the Palestinians, who have already rejected the administration's long-awaited peace plan. Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu's request an invitation has also been issued to Benny Gantz, a former army chief and Netanyahu's main rival in March 2 elections, the AP reports. The announcement indicated that the White House may be ready to release its peace plan after several delays. The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.

President Trump later dampened the speculation, tweeting that he looks forward to welcoming Netanyahu and Gantz to the White House, but that "reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative." Pence said they would "discuss regional issues as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land." Netanyahu said he gladly accepted the invitation. "We have had no better friend than President Trump," he said. "With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves." Neither Pence nor Netanyahu mentioned the Palestinians, and no Palestinians are expected to attend the talks at the White House. The Palestinians rejected Trump's peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.

(Read more Israel and Palestinians stories.)

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