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Trump invites Netanyahu, rival as peace plan expected


U.S. President Donald Trump invited Israel’s Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief political rival to Washington next week, the White House said Thursday amid reports that Trump’s peace plan would soon be revealed.

Trump will host Netanyahu and Benny Gantz at the White House on Jan. 28, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

The announcement comes minutes after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in Israel that Trump is inviting Israeli political leaders to discuss “the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land.”

Israeli media reports earlier Thursday said the Trump administration is preparing to roll out its “deal of the century” Palestinian-Israeli peace plan next week.

The White House has not announced any invitations to Palestinian officials, with whom relations have been frosty since Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

Israel’s Channel 12 said Trump’s plan would recognize Israeli sovereignty over virtually all settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.

That would effectively move the U.S.-recognized Israeli border further east into Palestinian territory, and Israeli sovereignty would be recognized over the whole of Jerusalem, which Palestinians seek as the capital of their future state.

The plan would also recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state at a later time reportedly, but Palestinian officials are highly unlikely to accept the plan, which Channel 12 said will also demand Hamas’ disarmament and Palestinian recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump distanced himself and his administration from the reports, saying on Twitter shortly after his invitation was announced, “Reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”

If the plan is revealed next week it would come with Trump in the midst of his Senate impeachment trial, and as the Israeli Knesset votes on possible immunity for Netanyahu in three graft cases.

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