Condemns false 'moral equivalence' between terror, defense

In farewell essay, Trump envoy ‘hopeful’ for peace plan, encourages compromise

Jason Greenblatt writes that he is proud to ‘protect the Jewish State,’ castigates Gaza-based terror groups for ‘destroying the lives of 2 million Palestinians’

White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt (center), with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Senator Lindsey Graham at the opening of an ancient road at the City of David archaeological site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, June 30, 2019. (Flash90)
White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt (center), with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Senator Lindsey Graham at the opening of an ancient road at the City of David archaeological site in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, June 30, 2019. (Flash90)

The outgoing US envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, on Friday penned an op-ed marking his resignation from the position expressing his regrets about stalled peace efforts and his hopes for future progress.

Greenblatt, who met on Friday in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is one of the architects of the Trump administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which has yet to be unveiled, has raised widespread skepticism, and has already been dismissed by the Palestinians.

Earlier this month, Greenblatt announced his intention to quit his position shortly after the plan is unrolled. He later clarified that he may stay on longer to see the peace proposal unfold.

“Nothing is perfect, and compromises are necessary. I am deeply hopeful that the vision we created will appeal to Israelis and Palestinians enough to start down the hard road of negotiating a peace agreement, and that peace extends to the countries in the region beyond Jordan and Egypt,” Greenblatt wrote in the essay published by CNN. “If the vision achieves peace, the lives of millions of people will be so much better.”

US President’s peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

He said he was grateful for assistance on the project, including from those who disagreed with the administration’s views, and that he was proud to have served the US and protected Israel “under a President who has been the greatest friend to Israel in its history.”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (L) speaks with White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt during the opening of an ancient road at the City of David archaeological and tourist site in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem on June 30, 2019. (Tsafrir Abayov/AFP)

Greenblatt wrote that he was “sad for the many Palestinians I was so fortunate to meet who seek a better life,” and castigated Gaza-based terror groups.

He was “surprised that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are willing to destroy the lives of 2 million Palestinians in their quest to destroy the State of Israel, and even more surprised at their belief that one day they will prevail,” he wrote, and was “sad at how 2 million Palestinians could be subjugated by Hamas and its partner in terror, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and at the lack of a solution to this problem.”

He also said he was dismayed by the amount of disinformation on the conflict, including by biased parties who he said deliberately mislead reporters and leak confidential information, and lamented that many people involved were uninterested in talks if their views differed from those of the Trump administration.

Greenblatt came down firmly on the side of Israel when discussing violence involving terror groups and the Israel Defense Forces.

“Sad (deeply so) at the lives lost and despair caused to so many families by the conflict, especially Israelis murdered in cold blood by terrorist attacks, as well as from rockets launched from Gaza. Sad that some actually believe that a moral equivalence exists between those murdered in cold blood by terrorists and those accidentally killed in Israel’s ever-challenging need to defend itself from such attacks,” he wrote.

Greenblatt met with Netanyahu on Friday, days after elections that left the Israeli leader’s political future in doubt. He was joined at that meeting by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and by Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.

US Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, September 20, 2019 (Matty Stern/US Embassy)

Neither Netanyahu nor Greenblatt delivered public remarks after their meeting, held Friday afternoon at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The office of Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz said Friday evening that the US embassy had contacted it and requested to schedule a meeting for Greenblatt with Gantz. A date has not yet been set.

Netanyahu and Greenblatt’s meeting took place three days after the Israeli elections, which failed to produce a clear winner. Both Netanyahu and Gantz seek to secure the premiership despite neither having a clear path to a stable governing coalition.

The administration of US President Donald Trump had said it would release its vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal shortly after the September 17 election, though no date had been set.

But the election deadlock could complicate its plans. Israel has had a transitional government since the end of 2018, when the Knesset dissolved ahead of election held on April 9. Those elections did not produce a majority coalition for Netanyahu, and the prime minister, rather than risk letting Gantz try to muster a majority instead, pushed through a vote to again dissolve parliament, triggering Tuesday’s election and more political paralysis.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speak on election night in Tel Aviv at separate party events, September 18, 2019. (Miram Alster, Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Under Israeli law and precedent, a transitional government, such as the one Netanyahu has now headed for nine months, is limited in terms of its capacity to take far-reaching decisions that would deeply affect the future of the state. For example, ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Netanyahu promised to immediately annex the Jordan Valley area — about 25% of the West Bank – if he were able to build a new coalition. He would almost certainly not be allowed to do that were he to attempt it amid the current post-election deadlock.

In an interview published Wednesday, Greenblatt said the administration had not yet decided whether it will unveil the plan during or after the current coalition negotiations.

“It’s too soon to tell. How will the election affect the plan? Our plan is different than what people have been talking about for so many years. We think we listened very hard to Israelis, Palestinians, the region, just about every expert.”

Greenblatt, a former lawyer with the Trump Organization, has been working for the last two and a half years on the administration’s peace plan together with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. The White House announced on September 5 that the envoy would be stepping down to return to New Jersey to be with his wife and six children.

Greenblatt will be replaced by Avi Berkowitz, a senior aide to Kushner who has been present at many of the meetings and discussions related to the peace proposal.

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