Trump's Mideast Envoy Live Tweeted His Trip to Israel. It Did Not Go Well

Jason Greenblatt's attempt at social media diplomacy has failed to appease the family of an Israeli settlement builder who donated $1 million to the Trump campaign and never got a 'thank you'

Matthew Kalman
Matthew Kalman
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U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in May.
U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in May.Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
Matthew Kalman
Matthew Kalman

Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special Middle East envoy, is discovering that there might be a downside in following his boss’s lead and constantly commenting on his every move and every thought on Twitter.

“Diplomacy, like mushrooms, grows best in the dark,” former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was fond of saying, but Greenblatt is not so reticent. Since arriving in Jerusalem on Monday, he has shared more detail about his conversations than any previous envoy, using the Trump administration’s favorite social medium as a platform.

So far, Greenblatt tells us, he has visited the Western Wall twice to pray, paid a condolence call to the family of slain Israeli policewoman Hadas Malka, and shared a kosher Iftar meal to break the Ramadan fast with pediatric cancer ward patients and their parents at the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

He has also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu adviser Isaac Molho and journalists Yossi Klein Halevi and Caroline Glick, and received briefings from some curiously unnamed “Palestinian officials.”

Nor is he shy about expressing his opinions. “Today I paid a shiva call to family of Hadas Malka. She was murdered by terrorists. This violence is intolerable!” he tweeted after paying his respects to the family of the border policeman who was killed in East Jerusalem last Friday night.

Greenblatt had promised to support Makassed Hospital financially and logistically, but didn’t mention that on Twitter. But he did thank the hospital “for accommodating my kosher diet by providing me with fruit at tonight's Iftar.”

But social media is a two-way street. The hospital fruit plate concerned one of Greenblatt’s followers for religious reasons. “Jason, In Israel you have to check if it wasn't grown in Israel as this can be a problem without a certification for Truma, Maasarot Etc,” was Robert Abrahams’s helpful advice.

Greenblatt’s schedule hasn't been met with universal approval in the talkbacks.

“Stop by for a couple of days, meet with some names. Then go home and say that you are working on it,” sniffed David Ha’ivri, a former spokesman for the Samaria Regional Council of West Bank settlements. Ha'ivri did add, however, that he was “impressed” that Greenblatt is talking to settler leaders in addition to the usual peace process personalities.

But Greenblatt may need all of his diplomatic skills to deal with one disappointed and influential woman. “Maybe when you have a chance you can sit down with the Moskowitz family, specifically my grandmother,” suggests rabbinical student Yechezkel Moskowitz. “She did give $1 million to the Trump campaign and did not even get a thank you.”

Yechezkel’s grandmother is Cherna Moskowitz, wife of the late casino mogul Irving Moskowitz. She appeared on the list of top donors to the Trump presidential campaign last year. Yechezkel Moskowitz said he was in touch with Trump aide Kellyanne Conway to suggest that Trump might like to thank her for the donation, but is still waiting for a response. “She's not in Israel. She's in Miami. I would love to arrange a meeting. Never heard back from anyone,” he said.

The Moskowitz family has donated millions to a string of Israeli causes, including the Weizmann Institute and Ariel University in the West Bank. They are also the financial powerhouse behind Ateret Cohanim, the fast-expanding East Jerusalem yeshiva, and have funded building projects throughout East Jerusalem, including the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, Silwan and Ras al-Amud.

"There's probably only one person that competes with me in building the city of Jerusalem, and that is Cherna Moskowitz," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat quipped when she was honored at an award ceremony last month.

Because Cherna Moskowitz is currently in Florida, it would be hard for Greenblatt to work her into his Israel itinerary, but her grandson said he was still waiting for the Trump campaign to do the right thing. “It's rather disappointing. But I am working through back channels to make things right,” he said.

On Wednesday evening, Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, were due to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Greenblatt’s Twitter feed was silent on that.

Kushner left Israel only 15 hours after touching down on Wednesday – barely enough time to Tweet.

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