President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said the “challenge of reaching a peace deal is extraordinary” and predicted that the proposal the US is working on would be greeted with criticism once it is unveiled.
“What we hope is a full, comprehensive peace agreement,” Greenblatt said in remarks Wednesday to the World Jewish Congress’ annual meeting in Ottawa. ‘If that can’t be achieved, then positive steps forward to help both Palestinians and Israelis and the region would be very good as well.”
Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s special representative for international negotiations, has been working alongside Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and close adviser, and David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, for more than two years on a plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“What we’ve done is we’ve kept a very tight circle. There are a handful of people in the world who know what’s in it. We’ve sought out advice from everybody, but we haven’t shared what’s in the plan,” Greenblatt said.
He stressed that the proposed deal would not be unveiled before mid-June, predicting that all sides would criticize it but adding that they should take a serious look at it.
“It’s not as if when you see it you’re going to say, ‘Wow, Kushner, Greenblatt, Friedman, you guys are geniuses. How did you figure that out?” he said.
He confirmed that the framework of a “two-state solution,” in which an independent Palestinian state would exist alongside Israel – long considered a prerequisite for Palestinian acceptance of any deal – would not be included in the proposed deal.
“We saw no benefit in using that phrase. We understand what the Palestinians are looking for, we understand what Israel – I mean, Israel is perhaps more divided on the issue – we understand what the Israelis have said about the issue,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority officially cut off all negotiations on a peace proposal with the Trump administration when the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. Palestinians lay claim to part of the ancient city for their own capital.
Greenblatt denied that the deal would be a nonstarter with the Palestinian Authority since he had not spoken to Palestinian leaders in months.
“That’s not true. We were in contact with them for all of 2017. We had multiple meetings with them, and we got from them what we needed. We continue to meet ordinary Palestinians since the Palestinian Authority cut ties with us after the recognition of Jerusalem,” he said.
When asked by CNN how the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank – considered occupied Palestinian territory by most of the international community – could hamper any peace proposal, he disputed that they would indeed “hamper” any proposal and called the obsession with settlements a “farce.”
“The lack of peace is not because of settlements. It is an issue that the parties need to discuss, it is an issue that hopefully the parties can figure out how to deal with, but people like to use that as a lightning rod as to why the peace process has stalled in the past or has stalled now. We don’t believe that at all. It’s a scapegoat. Our hope is that our vision is going to address all of these issues.”