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Israel’s security system prepares for growing Palestinian frustration

Israeli security tops fear that instead of bringing peace, the plan of US President Donald Trump would escalate tensions with Palestinians and bring closer Hamas and Fatah.
Israeli security forces seal off a street near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate after a suspected stabbing attack, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad - RC14B5380D30
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News broke Jan. 23 that US President Donald Trump planned to unveil details of his “deal of the century” for Israeli-Palestinian peace five days hence, on the day the Knesset was to vote on forming a committee to debate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution. Initially, most references to the plan were political in nature. Trump’s move appeared to be a blatant intervention in Israeli elections. It would have been far more appropriate to present the plan after the March 2 elections and subsequent formation of a new government. The political context was further underscored by the surprising White House invitation to Netanyahu’s rival, Blue and White party Chair Benny Gantz, whose acceptance meant absenting himself from the crucial Jan. 28 Knesset debate. When US Vice President Mike Pence mentioned, perhaps unintentionally, that Gantz had been invited to Washington at Netanyahu’s request, the political overlay was even clearer.

The sense in Israel, in general, and particularly among the Blue and White leadership, was that Netanyahu and company had engaged in a political ploy, setting a trap to help Netanyahu’s reelection prospects and hurt Gantz. By asking to meet separately with Trump on Monday, Jan. 27, so he could get back to Israel immediately for the Knesset vote, Gantz somehow emerged unscathed from the ambush. Gantz’s need for this move reflected beyond doubt that the timing of the plan’s unveiling was, indeed, an “election show.” So as not to be upstaged, Netanyahu was quick to arrange a meeting with Trump on Monday, just ahead of the Gantz White House meeting, of course, in addition to his previously scheduled one on Tuesday. For many Israelis, these maneuvers simply illustrate that the US plan is a political game unlikely to lead to a peace agreement.

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