Ex-Trump envoy: ‘Unfair’ of settlers to rap Palestinian state envisioned by plan

Ex-Trump envoy: ‘Unfair’ of settlers to rap Palestinian state envisioned by plan

Jason Greenblatt echoes sentiment voiced from White House officials frustrated by West Bank mayors’ personal attacks and criticism of peace proposal

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Jason Greenblatt, left, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem, on March 13, 2017. (Government Press Office)
Jason Greenblatt, left, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem, on March 13, 2017. (Government Press Office)

A former White House envoy who helped craft the Trump peace plan said Thursday that settler leaders’ criticism of the proposal has been “unfair” and called out the West Bank mayors for making personal attacks against the US administration.

“It’s fine of course to disagree, and I understand their concern about a Palestinian state [as envisioned by the plan], but even that is a bit of an unfair criticism,” Jason Greenblatt said during a virtual panel on Israeli annexation plans organized by the Shurat Hadin legal rights group.

Greenblatt argued that the Trump plan gives a long list of conditions that the Palestinians are required to meet before they can receive a state, and even then, Israel will be allowed to enter Palestinian territory freely if deemed necessary for security reasons.

“Every description in this very lengthy plan of how that state is supposed to operate should address all of the concerns that those opposed to it have,” Greenblatt said.

(From L-R) Gush Etzion mayor Shlomo Ne’eman, Kedumim mayor Hananel Dorani, Yesha Council director Yigal Dilmoni, Yesha Council chairman David Elhayani, Har Hebron mayor Yochai Damri, and Hebron Jewish community mayor Hillel Horowitz at a protest tent against the Trump peace plan in Jerusalem, on June 20, 2020. (Courtesy)

While a large number of the 24 settler mayors support the plan, a plurality have spoken out against it, arguing that granting the Palestinians a state is something they cannot accept on principle. David Elhayani, the chairman of the Yesha umbrella council of settler mayors, has argued that once the Palestinians are given a state, Israel will have no authority to limit its actions.

His camp of opponents to the plan also have spoken out against the plan’s transformation of at least 15 isolated settlements into enclaves surrounded by land earmarked for the future Palestinian state. Moreover, they argue that the plan’s stipulation that those communities will only be allowed to build in their “current footprint” for the next four years amounts to a “construction freeze” that risks “suffocating” those towns out of existence.

But Elhyani, in recent months, has also peppered his criticisms with personal attacks, claiming the plan demonstrates that US President Donald Trump is “not a friend of Israel” and accusing the proposal’s main architect of “stabbing Israel in the back.”

“I think they first off… ought to be grateful [for the] incredible things [the administration has] done for the State of Israel,” Greenblatt said, echoing frustration voiced by current White House officials regarding the recent settler criticism. “To not acknowledge that and instead go on the attack is not appropriate.”

US President Donald Trump (R) and special negotiations adviser Jason Greenblatt. (Twitter)

The former peace envoy clarified that it was legitimate to have issues with the plan, but that the settler leaders — as well as the Palestinians — would be better off engaging with the Trump administration, instead of “criticizing it without explaining what the criticism is.”

Last week, Yesha Council director Yigal Dilmoni said his group had been trying to arrange a meeting with Trump administration officials ever since the plan was unveiled last January, but had yet to receive a response.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he wants to annex the 132 West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley — the roughly 30 percent of the territory allocated to Israel under the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The new government’s coalition deal allows Netanyahu to begin the process as early as July 1. However, US enthusiasm for such a move has appeared to cool amid vociferous opposition from American allies in the Middle East.

A senior White House official said Thursday that the Trump administration has not made a final decision in a round of talks about whether to back Netanyahu’s annexation plans.

The discussions have concluded for the time being after three days, with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz heading to Israel for more work on the issue.

The White House discussions reportedly also included senior adviser Jared Kushner and national security adviser Robert O’Brien. It was not clear whether Trump was actively involved in the meetings.

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