Jason Greenblatt, a Designer of Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan, Is Leaving the Administration

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s special envoy for Middle East peace, Jason Greenblatt, will leave the administration, according to a senior Trump official, raising new questions about a long-delayed plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Greenblatt has worked closely since early 2017 with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, to design what Mr. Trump has called the “ultimate deal.” But their secretive plan has been delayed for several months, and it is unclear when it will be released — and whether Mr. Greenblatt will be around for the rollout.

Trump officials have said that the plan will not be released before Israel’s Sept. 17 election, which will determine the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally who has overseen expansionist policies in the occupied West Bank. The vote, if close, could be followed by months of political jockeying to build a governing coalition, which could further delay the plan’s release.

On Thursday, the Trump official would say about the plan only that, “The vision is now complete and will be released when appropriate.”

By then Mr. Greenblatt, formerly a longtime top lawyer to the Trump Organization, may have returned to private life. He accepted a huge pay cut in early 2017 when he took his White House job at an annual salary of about $180,000. His wife and six children have remained at their home in Teaneck, N.J. It is unclear whether Mr. Greenblatt will return to the Trump Organization after he leaves the government.

Mr. Greenblatt will remain on the job “in the coming period,” the official said. The absence of a commitment to stay through the plan’s release is sure to stir doubts about the its viability, which many regional experts and officials already doubt will break a decades-long stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. Some Trump administration critics expect it will be a largely political document designed to bolster Mr. Netanyahu, assuming he survives this month’s election, and to affirm Mr. Trump’s domestic standing with conservative Jews and evangelical Christians who support Israeli territorial expansion.

But Trump officials argue that their peace effort is a serious one that incorporates lessons from the mistakes of several past administrations, although they have so far provided few details beyond a call for major new economic development in Palestinian areas.

After Mr. Greenblatt’s departure, Avi Berkowitz, an adviser to Mr. Kushner, will become “more involved in the process,” the Trump official said. So will Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran.

Mr. Hook has already worked closely on the Israel-Palestinian file, a reflection of the Trump team’s theory that Israel and its Sunni Arab enemies can unite against a shared adversary: Tehran’s Shiite-led government.

Mr. Hook joined Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt for a midsummer Middle East tour meant to build support for their proposal from Arab leaders, whose backing they hope to win for a peace initiative that is expected to demand far more concessions from the Palestinians than from the Israelis. The Trump administration has been closely aligned with Mr. Netanyahu’s government on security and territorial issues, while taking an openly adversarial stance toward Palestinian leaders.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have worked in the White House for over two and a half years under the leadership of President Trump,” Mr. Greenblatt said in a statement. “I am incredibly grateful to have been part of a team that drafted a vision for peace. This vision has the potential to vastly improve the lives of millions of Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region.”

Mr. Kushner added in a statement that Mr. Greenblatt “has done a tremendous job leading the efforts to develop an economic and political vision for a long sought after peace in the Middle East,” saying he would remain a “close friend and partner.”

Source: NYT

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