JERUSALEM: The U.S. envoy to the Middle East met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, days after elections that left the Israeli leader’s political future in doubt.
Netanyahu suffered an apparent setback when he and his allies failed to secure enough seats for a narrow, right-wing majority coalition. The centrist Blue and White party, which won the most seats, has demanded that Netanyahu step aside to address his expected indictment on a series of corruption charges.
Netanyahu met with Jason Greenblatt, the architect of the Trump administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which has prompted widespread skepticism. The Palestinians have already rejected the plan, saying the White House is tethered to Israel’s right-wing government. Greenblatt announced earlier this month that he would be leaving the administration in the coming weeks.
Neither Netanyahu nor Greenblatt delivered public remarks. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, also attended the meeting.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will begin meeting with party leaders on Sunday. After those consultations, he will grant the task of forming the new government to whomever he thinks is most likely to assemble a majority coalition.
Both Netanyahu and the head of Blue and White, former military chief Benny Gantz, have called for a national unity government. But they are split over who should serve as prime minister, and failure to resolve the impasse could trigger an unprecedented third election in less than a year.
The last round of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down shortly after Netanyahu came to office in 2009. The Palestinians cut off all contacts with the White House after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Israel seized east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem and considers the entire city its unified capital.
Netanyahu made his close ties to President Donald Trump a centerpiece of his re-election bid and vowed to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank if re-elected. Fulfilling those promises could deal a final blow to any hopes for a two-state solution, which is still seen by the international community as the most viable way to resolve the conflict.
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