Ex-Cruz Aide Joins Trump Envoy's Team, Signaling Interest in Beefing Up Mideast Peace Efforts

The Trump administration is working to staff up Jason Greenblatt's team to support his peace efforts. The most recent addition: Victoria Coates, a former foreign policy adviser to Senator Ted Cruz

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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File photo: Special envoy Jason Greenblatt meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 13, 2017.
File photo: Special envoy Jason Greenblatt meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 13, 2017.Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON - Victoria Coates, a member of President Trump's National Security Council, was recently promoted to the position of senior director for international negotiations, in which she will be working under Jason Greenblatt, the President's special envoy in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Her appointment signals that the Trump administration is working to expand Greenblatt's office, which is officially called "The Special Envoy for International Negotiations," half a year after Greenblatt began his efforts to revive the peace process.

Coates joined the Trump administration earlier this year after working for three years as a foreign policy adviser to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Prior to that, she was an adviser to former Texas governor Rick Perry during his 2012 presidential campaign. She began her career in foreign policy by serving as an adviser to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, after he had left office. Coates holds a PhD in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. Last year she published a book entitled "David's Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art" which covered ten works by leading European artists and how they influenced public discourse.

During her first months in the Trump administration, Coates focused on strategic communications at the NSC. The decision to appoint her to work directly under Greenblatt became official two weeks ago, and ever since then, she has been involved in the administration's efforts to solve the crisis over security measures at the Temple Mount. Asides from Israel-Palestine, she will also assist Greenblatt's work on Cuba, an issue on which she advised Senator Cruz at the time, and which is officially part of Greenblatt's "international negotiations" portfolio.

In recent weeks, the NSC has been in discussions with the State Department over the possibility that a number of diplomats and policy experts from the department would begin working directly for Greenblatt, as the administration intensifies its' involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Greenblatt has relied on the State Department for information, advice and technical arrangements, but the NSC is looking to "staff up" his team, signaling that the Trump administration is serious about trying to move forward the peace process.

In another development within the NSC, it was reported on Tuesday that Mike Bell, a retired Army Colonel, was promoted to the position of Senior Director for the Middle East. Bell, who served until now in the NSC as an expert on the Persian Gulf, is replacing Derek Harvey, another retired Colonel, who was in charge of Middle East policy since the early days of the Trump administration, but left the NSC last week.

Bell and Harvey both share a close relationship with General David Petraeus, the former CIA Director and commander of the US Central Command. Both men served under Petraeus' command in Iraq last decade. While Harvey is out of the NSC, it's still possible that he would land a policy position in another part of the government, such as the Pentagon.

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