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Trump invites Netanyahu to US for peace plan talks


PTI, Jan 24, 2020, 10:13 AM IST

Jerusalem: US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election rival to Washington next week to discuss Donald Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

The White House said the talks would take place on Tuesday. “President Trump asked me to extend an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to the White House next week to discuss regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land”, Pence said.

Netanyahu told Pence, “I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security it deserves,” adding that he “gladly” accepted the invitation.

“Thank you for what your administration does every day. We have no better friend than President Trump,” he said at the meeting at the US embassy in Jerusalem. Palestinian leaders have however dismissed the US peace initiative as one-sided.

They say it fails to address their wish to end the Israeli occupation and the expansion, encouraged by Netanyahu, of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

On Thursday the Palestinian Authority reiterated its rejection of the US peace plan.

“We stress once again our categorical rejection of the American decisions,” a spokesman for Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas said in a statement.

Trump has slashed aid to the Palestinians, while making big concessions to the Israelis, including formalizing US recognition of the divided city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

His concept of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is believed to revolve around encouraging massive economic investment.

As caretaker premier, Netanyahu faces new elections on March 2. Both he and the White House agreed that his main rival, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party, will attend the Washington meeting.

Pence said Gantz, Israel’s former army chief, had accepted the invitation. Trump, whose team has long been working on the outlines of such a plan, has repeatedly boasted that he is the most pro-Israeli US president in history.

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