Following a continued rocket barrage from Gaza into Israeli population centers and Land Day protests along the Gaza border that resulted in the deaths of four Palestinians, President Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, said that the United States “will not waver from support of Israel defending itself.
Commenting on the worsening economic situation in Gaza and the continued violence including border protests and the firing of rockets at Israeli cities, Greenblatt said that “what is happening in Gaza is terrible. Palestinians are suffering there because of Hamas.”
Greenblatt told JNS that “Israelis are endangered constantly because of what Hamas doing.”
Greenblatt’s remarks came less than a week after President Trump signed an executive order officially recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Both Gaza and the Golan were captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War in which Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq all attacked Israel. Israel applied full Israeli law over the Golan Heights in 1981 and withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. While the Golan has turned into a strategic security asset for Israel, Gaza has turned into a constant security hazard.
“When the president announced the Golan recognition, he was very clear in his remarks that we absolutely support the right of Israel to defend itself,” Greenblatt said.
Greenblatt stated that US recognition of the Golan Heights was an announcement that “was necessary for the safety of Israel.”
Countering claims by opponents of the move that it was calculated to boost Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is less than two weeks away from a bid for re-election, Greenblatt said such statements are “a cynical response.”
He explained that “we see more and more security risk coming from the north, and people will define it the way they want to define it, but I think what President Trump did was absolutely the right decision.”
Asked to provide additional details regarding the formation and timing of the relatively surprise announcement, Greenblatt said, “I’m not going to get into the details of the deliberations. Those are the types of things we don’t disclose. It was a necessary announcement, and I think it was historic and bold just like the Jerusalem announcement and the embassy move.”
Greenblatt suggested that making announcements that put the security of Israel ahead of other considerations improves the chances that Israel can reach a comprehensive peace deal with Palestinians.
“One thing that is not acceptable to the Trump administration is to compromise Israel’s security in any manner whatsoever,” Greenblatt said, adding that “no peace agreement can be achieved without thinking about Israel’s security.”
The chief negotiator said that the administration is “clear-eyed about the challenges” of reaching a comprehensive agreement in one of the world’s most high-profile conflicts, and suggested that the administration had learned from past attempts by previous administrations to reach a final status arrangement.
“Many well meaning and talented teams had attempted to mediate. We studied why these attempts had not succeeded,” he said. “Peace can only be built on truth.”
Greenblatt acknowledged the possibility that a plan could in fact create more instability if interested parties seek to sabotage the plan’s objectives.
“There’s a lot of reasons why the peace plan is being handled very delicately, both being kept secretive and the timing. There are a lot of things that can spoil the peace plan, and that [an attempt by any party to destabilize the situation] is one of those things,” Greenblatt said. “But that is always going to be the case in this region. So, we just have to do it carefully, do it deliberately. And we hope that the region will support our efforts.”
Recognizing that there is no plan that could be presented that would not be met with opposition from at least one side or another, Greenblatt told JNS, “We understand that there will be criticism all around. We understand that in order to make peace there are compromises that need to be made. And we are hopeful that people will take it seriously. Because the region could be such a different place if we manage to pull this off.”
Greenblatt suggested that taking a new approach over past administrations will give the current peace plan a greater chance for success.
“We don’t believe that solving this conflict will solve the conflicts in the region. We don’t believe the talking point that this is the core conflict in the region. It’s not,” Greenblatt said. “At the same time, it will lend stability to certain areas and we think that if we succeed and if the region allows us to succeed and helps us to succeed, that a lot of people will benefit from this deal, first and foremost Israelis and Palestinians.
Greenblatt, who spoke at the World Values Network’s International Gala hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, said that as chief negotiator, he was “working on one of the most complex and difficult conflicts in human history.”
Asked what strategic moves that benefit Israel could come following a string of successes including America’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the moving of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, Greenblatt succinctly stated: “Watch.”