Greenblatt on hopes, challenges for Trump peace plan

Over 100 people packed the second floor living room of the World Values Network on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Tuesday evening for a lively panel discussion with Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, and New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. The conversation, held in advance of the much-anticipated peace deal rollout, was moderated by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

Greenblatt cautioned that the media reports about the administration’s peace plan being delayed were incorrect. “The only time in two years the administration has ever given a timeframe about the rollout was when President Trump said at the UN in September that he was aiming to release the plan within 2-4 months, which would put us at the end of January,” Greenblatt said. “We are watching what is happening in the region and we will release the plan when the time is right. We only have one shot at this, and we are going to pursue it and roll out the plan at the best possible time to get the best possible chance for positive engagement.”

Improving relations between Israel and several Arab countries are “cracks in the glass ceiling,” according to Greenblatt. “Two years ago, I never believed it was going to happen, but here we are today, it’s a remarkable change.” But he also cautioned that at the moment there’s a limit to how far Arab states will go in forming relations with Israel while the Palestinian issue remains unresolved. Pointing to the recent vote at the United Nations on the resolution against Hamas, Greenblatt stated that Arab states are willing to take steps towards Israel, “but there is a limit for the time being.” The Arab bloc vote against the U.S. resolution condemning Hamas, a terror organization, is an example of this.

“We do not believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core conflict of the region,” Greenblatt asserted, adding that he does not even refer to possible negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as the ‘Middle East peace process.’ The Middle East has numerous conflicts, “and if we are fortunate enough to be able to solve this conflict, it’s not going to solve the other serious conflicts in the region.” Admitting that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be “intractable” for the time being, Greenblatt emphasized that the White House believes there has been enough change on the ground to make it worth trying. “The administration has attempted to speak the truth about all the core issues and try to reset the table for possible negotiations,” he added.

The Mideast envoy expressed hope that when the plan is unveiled the Palestinian Authority will measure the level of benefit it can get out of the plan against its intent to reject the administration’s proposal. Greenblatt declined to offer specifics about the plan.

Greenblatt also explained that the administration has refrained from using the term “two state solution” since “it means different things to different people and that using the term has done nothing to advance the cause of peace. Instead, we are focused on a complete vision for peace. The plan is a comprehensive plan which will allow both sides to understand our vision for peace, how significantly their lives can be improved and the parties will have to decide for themselves if they want to make the compromises needed to achieve it.”

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