Eyal Zisser, vice rector of Tel Aviv University and professor for Middle Eastern Studies, believes that the upcoming election in Israel factors in Netanyahu's and Gantz's meeting with Trump.
Sputnik: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington DC on Monday (Israel time) and are expected to meet with Trump separately regarding the 'Deal of the Century.' Why do you think Trump is meeting with each individually?
Eyal Zisser: Well, it's all about politics. We are approaching the election in Israel, and those are the two main candidates saying they don't want to give each other something that might help them in the election. So for Netanyahu as current prime minister, to have his main opponent in the same meeting with the American president, this is [...] legitimacy. It's some sort of humiliation. You know, he's the prime minister. So why should he allow Gantz to be with him in such a meeting? And for Gantz, well, the whole idea behind his candidacy is to send the message that Netanyahu is not legitimate anymore. And he should not continue to serve as prime minister's 'wife', to give Netanyahu legitimacy by joining him in such a meeting. So it's all politics. Then the two opponents, well, they don't want to be in the same room with each other.
Sputnik: How likely is it that each will approve a new version of the peace plan? What adjustments might the Israeli politicians make?
Eyal Zisser: You know, it's very generous, the deal for Israel. But at the same time, it gives something to the Palestinians. It demands Israel evacuate some of the settlements and recognise some sort of a Palestinian entity. Gantz can live with it. So Gantz can say I accept it. It's OK. But for Netanyahu, it will be very difficult because he will lose many of the voters of the right-wing. So I guess the answer will be: we thank President Trump. It's a very positive deal. We have to start it. We are ready to consider. But they can't say. I think just like that, we accept it.
Sputnik: Trump's message to Netanyahu and Gantz: “You have six weeks to get this (plan) going, if you want it.” How correct are these statements, taking into account that the Palestinian side is not present at the meeting, and secondly, party leaders were called to a meeting to discuss the updated plan just a day before its scheduled release?
Eyal Zisser: If you suggest the deal, you need the two sides for it. That's one thing. If you have a deal that you believe can improve the situation on the ground, we laid the ground for maybe future breakthroughs. Sometimes you don't need two sides. Sometimes maybe one side is enough. And the big question is what stands behind the entire deal? Do we speak here about politics and the Donald Trump wants to get some votes in the United States and he wants to Netanyahu to gain some votes in Israel. So it's all about the image and it's all about deceptions and it's all about election campaign. It's not about everything. If this is the case, yes, maybe. But if maybe he really believes Trump, that he can bring peace and that we are in desperate need for peace. Uh, maybe he says, you know, one of the problem is that all the time you wait for one of the sides and he never shows up.
We need to move ahead with many of the things that can be moved ahead. Maybe this is also a practical approach.
Sputnik: Trump promised that the plan will work, adding that his administration has already spoken with the Palestinian authorities on this topic. How do you assess the plan’s chances for success, given that the economic part of this plan, which includes investments in the Palestinian Authority and neighbouring countries in the amount of $50 billion, was met with opposition by them?
Eyal Zisser: I expect that they will reject the deal because the Palestinians will not accept any deal. You know, the problem in politics is that, you know, sometimes you need to make compromises. Well, during the years, it was very difficult for the Palestinians to make any compromise because for many historical and other reasons, they always and maybe they were not strong enough. You know, only strong leaders can make compromises and they were not strong enough. And when you have a state, you can reach some sort of a deal. But when you have nothing. It's much more difficult for you to give compromises. So Palestine is not in a position to say yes to any deal at all. That history teaches us.
So whether they were right or wrong, whether we can understand them or we can't understand them. The bottom line is that they are not in a position to say yes. So, you know, this is a bitter conflict and the two sides are sure that the right side in the conflict. And, you know, with such an approach would never get anywhere.
Sputnik: How realistic is it that the peace plan could be slowly implemented even without Palestinian approval?
Eyal Zisser: I think it can be. It can be implemented because, for example, the deal is about defining the borders between Israel and the Palestinians and Israelis, the strong side, and there is international legitimacy. The Palestinians will have to accept it eventually and may maybe like for President Trump to be in the history of it here. Also, you will have to make compromise. We'll have to see.
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