A co-author of the Trump administration’s proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has told CNN he sees nothing to criticize in the decisions taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concerning Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.
Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, who has frequently criticized Palestinian leaders for their policies and rejection of the Trump administration’s efforts, said he has not voiced similar criticism of Netanyahu or other Israeli officials because he has not “found anything to criticize.”
“I haven’t found anything to criticize that goes over the line,” Greenblatt told CNN, when asked whether he has ever criticized Netanyahu or the Israeli government.
He rejected a comparison of his differing comments about Palestinian and Israeli officials, pointing to a long-standing Palestinian program that gives stipends to those who carry out attacks on Israelis and the families of those killed while carrying out such attacks.
Asked whether he believes the Israeli government has taken any actions that have held up or been unhelpful to the peace process, he said, “No. I think the government of Israel has been engaged.”
Greenblatt’s comments came as he and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner pitched the economic portion of their peace plan, proposing $50 billion in investments over 10 years, contingent on a resolution to the conflict. The Trump administration has remained tight-lipped about the political aspects of its plan, which Greenblatt said will address the “core issues” of the conflict and is unlikely to be released until November at the earliest.
Palestinian officials – who boycotted the conference – rejected the Trump administration’s economic proposal out of hand, though officials from most Arab states in the Middle East attended the conference.
The Trump administration has shown an almost total aversion to criticism of the Israeli government. It was silent in the face of Netanyahu’s vow last spring to annex parts of the West Bank if he is elected to a fourth term – a charged political promise that would likely have been met with criticism from past US administrations.
Greenblatt said he hopes “nobody takes unilateral action … at least until a peace plan is proposed,” but rejected a comparison between Netanyahu’s rhetoric and the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of those who mount attacks on Israelis.
He demurred, however, when asked whether he would criticize Netanyahu if his administration does move forward with annexing parts of the West Bank.
“We have not made a determination on that. We are not up to things that might happen down the road. I think it’s a theoretical conversation at this point,” Greenblatt said.
When pressed on the fact that he has criticized Palestinian officials for their rhetoric about his peace plan, Greenblatt again rejected the comparison.
“When I condemn the PA for those kinds of statements, it’s saying that our peace plan is going to be born dead. That’s a very different thing. There is no comparison to the two statements,” Greenblatt said. “The Palestinian Authority is not only condemning our peace plan, they’re taking action to subvert it, to undermine it, to prevent peace from happening. They’re not here. They didn’t just say they’re not coming, they’re actually not here. That’s much more than a political statement.”
No talk of two-state solution ‘until a peace plan is revealed’
Greenblatt also suggested the US has not sworn off a two-state solution – a question that has hung over the administration’s efforts to address the conflict since the early months of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Pressed about Kushner’s comments in May explaining he had decided to “not say” the words “two-state,” Greenblatt said Kushner was referring only to not using that terminology before the release of the plan, leaving open the door to a two-state solution. Kushner’s comments were widely interpreted in the Middle East to mean the Trump administration was swearing off the possibility of a Palestinian state in its still-unreleased political plan.
“I think when he said that he was talking about from when we started working on this until a peace plan is revealed,” Greenblatt told CNN. “We’re not going to use jargon and slogans which mean different things to different people.”
Greenblatt went on to say the administration’s political proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “dozens of pages long” and will “spell out how we think the conflict can be ended if both sides are willing to engage and if both sides are willing to compromise.”
When asked if he would like to reassure people in the Middle East that the administration has not abandoned a two-state solution, Greenblatt pointed to Trump’s past comments.
“I think that President Trump probably said it best when he said that we will support whatever the two sides agree to. We’re presenting a plan that we think makes a lot of sense. We hope the two sides could agree to it, but we’re not going to get into just trying to distill what is an extraordinary conflict into three words,” Greenblatt said.
A two-state solution is seen as fundamental to the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian people and leadership will not deal with any peace plan that does not comply with international law, i.e. two states solution, including East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state based on 1967 lines,” Majdi Khaldi, diplomatic adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, told CNN.