As Israel faces its third election in a year because of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s possible impeachment, the odds of him returning to power are becoming increasingly slim. The polls so far have been close for the current Prime Minister as the Walla news site discovered in December that 38 percent of people believe that Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party, is better suited to be Prime Minister, while 37 percent say Netanyahu is good for the role. But the Trump administration’s peace plan for the country could change everything for Netanyahu.
Referred to as the ‘Deal of the Century’, US President Donald Trump will decide on whether to release his plan before the Israeli election. A December report by Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen saw a draft copy of the deal that revealed a Palestinian state would share some responsibilities over Jerusalem, but the city would remain under Israeli control.
The plan also includes the formation of ‘New Palestine’ in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the settlement blocs to become part of Israel.
Gantz has accused Washington of intervening in the election. Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev said Trump’s peace plan ‘would throw a stink bomb at Israeli democracy.’ Shalev adds that the US President refused to publish the deal before the April 9th and September 12th elections because Netanyahu was not desperate for help then, but circumstances have changed due to the Prime Minister’s likely impeachment.
However, Trump may be releasing the deal at this time to benefit himself more than his ally. It was reported by American news website Axios that Channel 13’s Barak Ravid said if the US President waits until after Israel’s poll to release the plan, it may be difficult for him to do so due to his own re-election.
Also, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien told Axios that releasing the plan before the March 2nd election would not harm Israel’s electoral process, and that he is not focused on the nation’s electoral calendar. He is pessimistic that the country’s political deadlock will end before the deal’s release, which shows the White House is more interested in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than timing the plan’s publication to help a friend.
The President has did not discuss whether to present the plan before the Israeli election. Instead, Trump’s decision will be influenced by developments in Congress’s own impeachment process, the meetings the President and Jared Kushner will have with different leaders from the Middle East and Europe during the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, and Trump’s son-in-law’s final discussion with both Gantz and Netanyahu during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.
The deal is unlikely to transform Netanyahu’s political fortunes. A Blue and White member told Al-Monitor that the Prime Minister ‘has run out of magic tricks’ and that if he welcomes the plan, Gantz will too. They added that they intend to avoid squabbling with Trump too much before the election and that they wish to maintain Israel’s ‘excellent’ relationship with the White House. Israeli voters who believe a change in government would thwart a peace plan that benefits their nation more than Palestine have nothing to fear if the Blue and White leader also supports the plan, which will only work to his electoral advantage.
It is yet to be seen whether Trump’s decision to publish his peace plan will benefit Netanyahu in the short-term, and what factors will help determine his final choice. If Gantz supports the deal, the Prime Minister will lose his electoral advantage; his close relationship with the US President. There is no reason as to why the Blue and White Party would oppose this deal, yet all can change in less than two months.