US peace envoy: There’s ‘no international consensus’ on Mideast conflict

Facing criticism from German ambassador to UN, Jason Greenblatt doubles down on argument that world powers differ on resolution to Israeli-Palestinian issue

US Envoy Jason Greenblatt speaks at the Israel Hayom forum in Jerusalem on June 27, 2019. (Gideon Markovitz)
US Envoy Jason Greenblatt speaks at the Israel Hayom forum in Jerusalem on June 27, 2019. (Gideon Markovitz)

WASHINGTON — Facing criticism for his speech before the United Nations Security Council last month — and more broadly for the Trump administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — the US envoy for Middle East peace shot back at the German ambassador to the UN, who said that Washington has “left the international consensus.”

In a podcast interview released Friday evening, Jason Greenblatt told the outgoing head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein that there was no broad agreement on how to deal with the conflict among the community of nations.

“There is no international consensus on this conflict,” Greenblatt said. “People reflexively try to pretend that an international consensus exists as to how to resolve the conflict. That’s not true.”

He went on, “In fact, we couldn’t even get an international consensus to condemn Hamas. Hamas is a terror organization that subjugates 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, vows to destroy Israel, shoots thousands of rockets at Israel. If there’s no international consensus on that, there’s no international consensus on a resolution here.”

Greenblatt made the comments on the John Batchelor Show, hosted by the right-learning veteran journalist John Batchelor. Hoenlein is a frequent guest panelist on the program.

In July, Greenblatt delivered a fiery speech in New York in which he lambasted what he called “fictions of international consensus” on the conflict, including that the Palestinians were entitled to a capital in East Jerusalem.

“It is true that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority continue to assert that East Jerusalem must be a capital for the Palestinians,” he said in his speech. “But let’s remember, an aspiration is not a right.” He also said that international law would not dictate the terms of a reconciliation agreement.

US President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019 after signing the official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. From left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP/Susan Walsh)

“We have all heard cogent arguments claiming international law says one thing or another about this or that aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “Some of those arguments are persuasive, at least to certain audiences. But none of them are conclusive.”

The speech was seen as a potential preview of what might be included — or not — in US Donald Trump’s peace plan. The administration has steered clear of calling for a two-state solution, and has been far more favorable to Israel over the course of the last three years.

Germany’s UN envoy Christoph Heusgen derided Greenblatt’s remarks.

“For us, international law is not an a la carte menu,” Heusgen said. “There are other instances where US representatives here insist on international law, insist on the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, for instance on North Korea.”

In June, the Trump administration released the economic component of its peace plan, called “Peace to Prosperity,” which would theoretically pump $50 billion into the Palestinian territories to boost the economy and spur entrepreneurship.

The Palestinian Authority has dismissed the plan. After Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinian leadership said he had forfeited his ability to act as a mediator in negotiations, and has since refused to engage with Washington.

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