Opinion

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Special Troll to the Middle East

David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and Lindsey Graham attend the opening of an ancient road at the City of David archaeological and tourist site in East Jerusalem, June 2019.
Tsafrir Abayov / POOL / AFP

Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, a crafter of the failing deal cooked up by the administration to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is simply a provocateur. In an interview Wednesday with “PBS NewsHour,” he said that in the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel isn’t responsible for the situation that has been created – it’s the victim.

This amazing statement is a sweeping denial of reality – of well-based facts and of precise and extensive documentation of the occupation’s injustices. Greenblatt is an occupation denier. The occupation is less serious than the Holocaust, so denying the occupation is less serious than denying the Holocaust, but still, it’s quite serious.

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To claim that Israel is the victim of the Palestinians isn’t just to ignore the occupation, it’s to justify its practices entirely. And since the occupation is a proven and ongoing act carried out by Israel, justifying it is just a cheap provocation.

Greenblatt said the West Bank isn’t “occupied” but rather is “disputed.” And not that he’s blind to the Israeli army’s violent control in the territories, the theft of Palestinian land, the crushing of human rights, the exclusion, expulsion, institutionalized racism, apartheid system, privileges of the Jews enshrined in law and all the rest of the obvious signs of occupation. He sees, but he feels the need to provoke the Palestinians and call the territories “disputed.”

Greenblatt’s provocation is even more extreme: He declares that Israel has made no mistakes all through the years of the conflict. He says he can’t think of one specific case in which Israel made a mistake or exceeded its authority. “Israel is doing the best that it possibly can under very challenging circumstances,” he explained, and if Israel did slip up here and there in some negligible way, he added: “Nobody’s perfect, right?”

Here’s a summary of Greenblatt’s provocative position: Israel is a victim, it bears no responsibility for the situation in the territories, it’s not occupying them, it doesn’t make mistakes and doesn’t exceed its authority. That is, the daily, institutionalized abuse by the army and the settlers of the Palestinians isn’t abuse (the army and the settlers are the victims), and in any case, it’s justified. Greenblatt is Trump’s troll to the Middle East.

(And by the way, Greenblatt doesn’t like the word “settlements,” he thinks it’s pejorative and prefers to talk about “neighborhoods and cities.”)

When asked his opinion on annexation, he said that because there is no occupation of territories but rather a conflict that must be resolved, the term “two-state solution” is too simplistic. (As opposed to defining the territories as “disputed,” right?) After all, “you can’t take a conflict as complex as this and boil it down to those three words,” he said.

The truth is, the two-state solution died before Trump was elected. The settlers and the occupation killed it, and now this complex conflict can be boiled down to one word: apartheid.

It should be noted that if Greenblatt really wanted to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table, he would take pains to express himself differently on the most central issues to their identity. But as a provocateur, he only wants to irritate them – to push their buttons and see how they jump.

What does he care? He doesn’t live here. He’s a Jew who enjoys all the rights to Israel without having to pay any of the costs involved.