WASHINGTON — A senior communications official in the Trump White House who oversees the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio is leaving his post, an administration official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.
Josh Raffel, formerly a Hollywood PR executive before taking his current job, is stepping down due to “family obligations back in New York,” where he is originally from, the official said. He plans to return to the private sector. His final day will be at some point within the next two months.
Axios was the first to report Raffel’s departure.
Raffel joined the White House last year to run the Office of American Innovation, led by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. But he quickly began managing communications for Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
He was quietly promoted to deputy communications director the fall of 2017 and was the administration’s top communications official representing the diplomatic team responsible for trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian accord, for which he rarely spoke on the record.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top envoy on Middle East Peace, said in a statement that “Josh was an integral part of our peace team and became a close friend. He guided all of us through the process of communicating serious and complex issues that impact people across the world.”
Raffel’s exit comes as Kushner is under increased scrutiny over his inability to secure a permanent security clearance. Politico reported Tuesday that he was notified on Friday that his clearance had been downgraded from Top Secret/SCI-level to the Secret level, meaning he will no longer be able to view many of the documents to which he once had unrestrained access.
The news also coincides with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming White House visit next week, when he will meet with Trump and his team, who have said they plan to present their peace plan in the near future. They have given no timetable for when the proposal will be made public.
Ivanka Trump lamented Raffel’s exit on Tuesday.
“Josh is honest, passionate and thoughtful. Whether it was offering strategic guidance on the communications for tax reform or a foreign trip, Josh’s guidance was invaluable,” she said in a statement. “The White House won’t be the same without him.”
Before joining the White House, Raffel ran public relations for the Blumhouse film production company. He previously ran communications for Kushner Companies, the real estate firm owned by Jared Kushner’s family.