Trump's Mideast Envoy Meets With Netanyahu in U.S. Bid to Show 'Commitment to Peace'

Though Jason Greenblatt's trip lacks meetings with Palestinian leaders, senior White House official says Washington intends to 'continue moving forward' with peace plan

Jason Greenblatt and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on September 10, 2017.
Matty Stern / U.S.Embassy Tel Av

WASHINGTON – Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace, met in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday during a short visit to Israel.

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Despite strong criticism from the Palestinian Authority and leading Arab countries following Trump's speech on Jerusalem two weeks ago, the White House cites Greenblatt's visit as evidence of the Trump administration's continued commitment to reaching a peace deal. 

Greenblatt's visit did not include any meetings with Palestinian officials, as the Palestinian Authority announced it will stop cooperation with the U.S. and instead attempt to gain recognition of Palestinian statehood through international forums following Trump's formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 

A senior White House official told Haaretz that neither Greenblatt nor Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in law, senior adviser and head of the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio, have made contact with Palestinian leadership since the President's speech as of Wednesday.

The official added, however, that the administration was still hopeful the Palestinians would return to work with Kushner and Greenblatt as their peace plan moves forward. "We believe that when the time is right, relevant parties will recognize that our plan will be in the best interests of the Israelis and the Palestinians," the official explained. 

The same official added that Greenblatt's visit emphasizes the administration's intentions to "continue moving forward and putting together our peace plan," and that that "this visit is not about relationship fixing," but rather on continuing the work Greenblatt and the peace team led by Kushner has been doing since January. "Some people were skeptical when we said we're counting to work on this, but we are," the official added. 

During his time in Israel, Greenblatt also met with the Major General Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Actions in the Territories and senior-most Israeli military officer in charge of the West Bank. Mordechai is a key contact point between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, and Greenblatt has met him on a number of previous visits to Israel. In addition, Greenblatt met with the European Union's special envoy to the peace process, Fernando Gentilini. 

Greenblatt wrote three tweets about his meetings, providing little detail beyond stating that his commitment to continue working on peace efforts. With regards to his meeting with Netanyahu, which was also attended by U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, he described it as "a check-in as the Administration continues with its peace efforts which will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians."