Trump’s outgoing peace envoy heads to Jerusalem; to meet Netanyahu, Gantz
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Trump’s outgoing peace envoy heads to Jerusalem; to meet Netanyahu, Gantz

Jason Greenblatt says ‘too soon to tell’ if White House will release peace plan during or after coalition negotiations

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt (l) meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt (l) meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

The US administration’s outgoing Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, is expected to land in Israel on Thursday for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and possibly also with his chief political rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed the meeting. A spokesperson for Gantz said, “Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz is happy to meet with any representative of the United States government if and when such requests are made.”

The expected meetings are set to take place two days after the Israeli elections failed to produce a clear winner, with both Netanyahu and Gantz seeking to secure the premiership despite neither having a clear path to a stable governing coalition.

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

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.

“We decided not to reveal pre-election, but we’ll decide when and if we do it during the coalition formation or wait till after the coalition formation,” he told the ultra-Orthodox Hamodia newspaper.

“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.”

In the interview, Greenblatt appears to dispel persistent rumors that the White House might bury the plan altogether.

“I think it would be a shame if we didn’t unveil the plan and let people consider whether they only want the status quo, which wouldn’t be good, or whether they want to reach for that next level of living and to thrive and prosper,” he said.

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 through.

“Although I have announced my departure, I am trying to stay until the plan is launched,” Greenblatt told an event in New York, according to Jewish Insider. “If the plan is launched soon, I will stay. And if the plan is launched and we get traction, I hope to stay longer — and I have my family’s support for it.”

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.

At the New York event, Greenblatt revealed that the Trump administration had discussed presenting the peace plan even before the previous elections in Israel on April 9 but decided to wait as Washington officials felt it would not “be appreciated” in Israel if the administration was perceived as favoring Netanyahu.

Those elections failed to produce a coalition and Netanyahu dissolved parliament, calling a fresh vote for September and leading Washington to delay the plan’s release.

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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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