Trump's Mideast Envoy Greenblatt Resigns

White House stresses his departure would not impact the timing of the peace plan's release, expected after Israel's September election

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt attend the opening of an ancient road at the City of David, East Jerusalem, June 30, 2019.
\ POOL/ REUTERS

WASHINGTON — Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East and a key figure in the administration’s work on an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, has announced his resignation.

The White House announced Thursday that Greenblatt will leave his post in the coming weeks, after working on the Middle East issue for over two years.

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According to administration sources, Greenblatt originally planned to leave the administration after two years, and ended up staying in office longer.

>> Read more: Trump says he will likely wait to release Mideast peace plan until after Israeli election ■ The ignorance of Trump envoy Greenblatt is just the tip of the iceberg | Opinion  

The administration stressed that his departure should not impact its intention to release its Middle East peace plan after Israel's September 17 election.

Jason Greenblatt and Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Jerusalem, July 12, 2017.
Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

The economic part of the plan was released in June ahead of an international summit in Bahrain.

The release date of the plan has been delayed several times over the past year, most notably after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure a majority coalition after Israel's April election, forcing the country into a new election.

After his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, Netanyahu told reports that he had not asked the white House to delay the release of the Mideast peace plan until after the September 17 election.

"President Trump's peace plan will be presented when he and his team decide to release it. I told [the president and his team] that it's their decision," Netanyahu said.

"But I can say that I have a solid assessment that the plan will be released shortly after the election," the premier added.

"I ask to thank Jason Greenblatt for his dedicated work for peace and security and for not hesitating to speak the truth about the State of Israel and all those who slander it. Thank you Jason," Netanyahu said. 

Trump said in a tweet Greenblatt "has been a loyal and great friend and fantastic lawyer," adding that "His dedication to Israel and to seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians won’t be forgotten."

A spokesman for Palestinian organization Fatah said Greenblatt’s resignation “is not the end of the ‘Deal of the Century,’ but a clear confession by the U.S. administration that its plan is facing many obstacles.” 

Calling Greenblatt an “amateur envoy,” the spokesman said “it’s time the Trump administration admits failure” and drop any efforts to promote a peace plan that isn’t based on the two-state solution.

The U.S. administration has yet to announce an official date for the plan's publication. Washington insists it would benefit both parties, but the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly called it biased and said it would not accept it.

Greenblatt said Thursday he is "incredibly grateful to have been part of a team that drafted a vision for peace. This vision has the potential to vastly improve the lives of millions of Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region." This is the second time in recent days that Greenblatt has referred to the U.S. document as a "vision." 

He also said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, which remained in New Jersey during the two-and-a-half-year period he worked in the White House.

Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said that Greenblatt's work for the administration "helped develop the relationships between Israel and its neighbors," and that Greenblatt is "trusted and respected by all of the leaders throughout the region."

Greenblatt was Trump’s personal lawyer for years before joining the administration following his election victory in 2016. 

It remains unclear whether a permanent Middle East envoy will be appointed in his place, but Kushner, his closest aide Avi Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will continue to lead the American peace efforts.  

Berkowitz, as well as the State Department's top representative for Iran-related policy, Brian Hook, will take on a larger role in the Middle East peace team.

In July, Greenblatt said a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be the Iranian regime's "worst nightmare," in an opinion piece published by Fox News.

"A successful comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is among the important tools we have to help bring regional stability and prevent Iranian terror," Greenblatt wrote in the opinion piece that was co-authored by Hook.

"The Iranian regime’s regional aggression has brought the Arab nations and Israel together to an unprecedented degree, creating cooperation that can ultimately help advance diplomatic progress in other areas, including peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer — if it ever was — the core conflict of the region," Greenblatt and Hook wrote. 

Noa Landau in London and Jack Khoury contributed to this report