U.S. Envoy Greenblatt: Israel 'Victim' in Conflict, Rejects the Term 'Settlements'

In interview with PBS, Trump's peace broker says president has 'great credibility' among all leaders in the region except for Palestinians

U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in Netanyahu's office in July 2017.
Matty Stern/U.S.Embassy Tel Aviv

"Israel is actually more the victim than the party that's responsible" for the Middle East conflict, said U.S. peace envoy Jason Greenblatt in an interview with PBS on Wednesday.

Greenblatt also rejected the term "occupied" to describe the West Bank and called the use of the word "settlements" "pejorative."

"From the moment of its formation, they [Israelis] were attacked multiple times. They continue to be attacked with terrorism. So — I'm not sure I understand the premise of the question," said the U.S. Mideast envoy in response to a question about what responsibility Israelis bear for the current state of affairs in the Middle East. When pressed whether Israel had made mistakes, Greenblatt quipped, "nobody's perfect, right?"

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Greenblatt called the word "settlements" "pejorative," saying he preferred to refer to the Jewish communities established beyond Israel's Green Line as "neighborhoods and cities." He also rejected the term "occupied" to describe the West Bank, saying "I would argue that the land is disputed…Calling it occupied territory does not help resolve the conflict."

Greenblatt, who along with U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, recently unveiled the economic component of Trump's long-touted peace plan, said that the president "has great credibility among all the leaders in the region, other than the Palestinian leadership."

The Palestinians, who severed ties with the White House after Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year, have said  they would reject any peace plan proposed by the U.S, because they regard Trump as unfairly biased toward Israel.

Greenblatt said in the interview that the president had not yet decided whether to release the political component of the peace plan before or after Israel's September 17 election.  

"It's no secret that, when the Israelis had to go to a second election, that sort of threw us off a little bit," he said.