Today, President-elect Donald Trump named Jason D. Greenblatt his special representative for international negotiations, creating a new White House role for his right-hand man at Trump Tower.
Greenblatt’s name first emerged Dec. 23 as frontrunner for the new position. But it’s still unclear what exactly he will do. A statement released by Trump’s team said Greenblatt would assist “on international negotiations of all types, and trade deals around the world.”
During the presidential campaign, Greenblatt advised Trump on U.S.-Israel policy. Relations between Washington and its traditionally staunch Mideast ally have waned during the Obama administration – and Trump has pledged to reboost it once he takes office. Given that the Trump statement Tuesday highlighted Greenblatt’s campaign advisory role on Israel issues, it’s likely he’ll be part of that effort.
What Greenblatt might do on trade issues is even less clear. Greenblatt’s primary experience with international trade is that he negotiated deals on Trump’s behalf. But the president-elect is already amassing a stable of trade experts, from Wall Street financier Wilbur Ross at the Commerce Department, to Peter Navarro, a rogue economist with hawkish views on China, as head of the new National Trade Council.
Whether on trade or Israel, Greenblatt offered aphorisms on deal-making in Tuesday’s announcement. “My philosophy, in both business and in life, is that bringing people together and working to unite, rather than to divide, is the strongest path to success,” Greenblatt said. “I truly believe that this approach is one that can yield results for the United States in matters all over the world.”
On Nov. 2, the week before Trump’s election, Greenblatt issued a joint statement with David Friedman, who is now nominated as U.S. ambassador to Israel, outlining the new administration’s priorities. In it, Greenblatt and Friedman called for the United States to “cut off funds for the U.N. Human Rights Council, a body dominated by countries presently run by dictatorships that seems solely devoted to slandering the Jewish State.”
They also said the Trump administration would ask the Justice Department to investigate “coordinated attempts on college campuses to intimidate students who support Israel.”
The two don’t see perfectly eye-to-eye on Israel, however. Greenblatt has not expressed as much disdain for an independent Palestinian state as Friedman, according to Haaretz, and insists a two-state solution should not be taken off the table.
Like Friedman, Greenblatt is connected to Israeli settlement movements in disputed territories – the same settlements the U.N. voted to condemn on Dec. 23 with a controversial U.S. abstention. But Greenblatt is reportedly tied to more moderate settlement organizations than Friedman.
Greenblatt represented Trump’s vast real estate empire on legal and business matters for two decades before joining his presidential campaign. Before joining the Trump Organization in 1997, he worked for international law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobsen. He taught a course called “Real Estate 101: The Anatomy of a Real Estate Deal” as an adjunct professor at Yeshiva University, according to Tuesday’s announcement. Greenblatt received a law degree from New York University in 1992.
Separately, Trump’s transition team announced the appointment of Tom Bossert as the top White House aide for homeland security and counterterrorism, installing a veteran Republican deputy homeland security advisor from the George W. Bush administration.
In the new White House, Bossert will coordinate U.S. cybersecurity policy, sure to be a hot-button issue after what American intelligence officials call an unprecedented campaign by Russia to influence the American election in Trump’s favor by hacking U.S. political organizations.
“We must work toward cyber doctrine that reflects the wisdom of free markets, private competition, and the important but limited role of government in establishing and enforcing the rule of law, honoring the rights of personal property, the benefits of free and fair trade, and the fundamental principles of liberty,” Bossert said in a statement Tuesday. “The internet is a U.S. invention, it should reflect these U.S. values as it continues to transform the future for all nations and all generations.”
In a statement, the Trump transition team said it would elevate the homeland security advisor position to be equal to the national security adviser, a role that will be held by retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The elevation of the homeland security adviser restores a bureaucratic arrangement in place during the Bush administration. But is unlikely to differ much in practice from the Obama administration, during which the two homeland security advisors frequently enjoyed wide-ranging access to the president.
The exact division of responsibilities between Flynn and Bossert remains unclear. In the Trump team statement, Bossert was tasked with “domestic and transnational security priorities” leaving Flynn to coordinate the administration’s approach to “international security challenges.”
(c) 2016, Foreign Policy · Robbie Gramer, David Francis, Elias Groll