Will Netanyahu’s White House trap sink or swim? - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

Will Netanyahu’s White House trap sink or swim?

After failing to form a government after the elections held on Apr. 9 and Sept. 17, Israelis will head to the polls again on March 2, 2020. After years in power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being accused of corruption. On Tuesday, the Israel Council will make a decision on lifting his immunity as Bibi and his Likud party scramble to postpone the planned session.

U.S. President Donald Trump is preparing to unveil the details of the Palestinian “peace plan" he has prepared in order to help Netanyahu stay in power. Since Netanyahu was unable to form a government in either election, Trump postponed the announcement of the plan he had dubbed as the “Deal of the Century." Netanyahu's rival "Blue and White" alliance leader, Benny Gantz, said that the announcement of the plan would amount to "interference in elections in favor of the Likud party."

However, Gantz gave up any objection to the unveiling of the plan. Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who visited Israel, announced that Trump has invited Netanyahu and Gantz to the White House. It is said that Trump is preparing to make a statement regarding the so-called peace plan before this meeting, which is slated to be held on Jan 28. In fact, Trump invited only Netanyahu. It was Bibi himself who recommended Pence to extend an invitation to Gantz.

Pence has not announced the decision of the "Blue and White" alliance, even though he stated that the two leaders would respond to Trump's invitation. It is not yet clear whether Trump will host both leaders together or separately. This uncertainty made the "Blue and White" alliance even more ambivalent. The Alliance suspects that Gantz will only be used as an accessory by Netanyahu. The fact that the invitation coincided on the day when a session on whether to lift Netanyahu's immunity will be held also gives it pause. The "Blue and White" alliance wants Netanyahu’s immunity to be lifted.

Netanyahu, a hardened politician, hopes that the presence of Gantz in the White House when the so-called peace plan will be announced will eventually politically harm the "Blue and White" alliance. The Alliance, on the other hand, does not want Gantz to accept the invitation because it does not want to take such a risk before the elections. Gantz and his circle see the invitation as a trap set by Netanyahu. The Alliance also has to consider Trump's response if Gantz does not go to Washington. Gantz is weighing his options after he got backed into a corner by Netanyahu's move.

While Trump's so-called peace plan provides Israel with many advantages that it cannot win through diplomacy, it does not bring forth any tangible gains to Palestinians. Trump does not believe that Palestinians will accept the plan with economic promises. It was also noteworthy that the U.S. delegation that hatched the plan included the very same names that adopted Netanyahu's annexation policies. The final bridge between the Palestinian side and the Trump administration has been burnt due to the concessions provided to Israel. For Netanyahu, who could not win the elections despite Trump's support, this invitation is a final lifeline.

Trump’s never-ending peace plan has divided the U.S.’s Jewish lobby. Pro-Trump billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is among the fanatic Zionists who want Netanyahu to stay in power, while liberal Jews who support the Democratic party can hardly wait for Bibi’s removal.

J Street director Yael Patir, who represents the U.S.’s liberal anti-Netanyahu Jews, said the Deal of the Century won’t even be the deal of the year, as she criticized Israel’s unilateral annexations, noting that this was the Democratic party’s stance as well. “These campaigns will only lead to destabilization in the region and will cause tensions between the U.S. and Israel post-Trump.”

It would appear as though Trump’s so-called peace plan will lead to fresh chaos in the Middle East. Right from the start, Palestinians have, and rightly so, dismissed the entire plan. Not even annexing Zionists seem to be leaning toward accepting this plan which includes huge concessions to Israel.

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