Jason Greenblatt, an architect of what President Trump has called the “deal of the century” — an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan — has resigned as the White House’s special Middle East envoy just weeks before the entire plan was slated to be unveiled.
In announcing his departure, the White House said Greenblatt had originally planned to stay for only two years. Sources said he ended up staying longer to see the peace plan unveiled.
In a Tweet, Trump wrote: “After almost 3 years in my administration, Jason Greenblatt will be leaving to pursue work in the private sector. Jason has been a loyal and great friend and fantastic lawyer…His dedication to Israel and to seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians won’t be forgotten. He will be missed. Thank you Jason!”
Greenblatt, 52, who worked on the peace plan for more than two years along with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, had said that the plan would be unveiled after Israel’s Sept. 17 election. It is unclear if Greenblatt will leave before the plan is rolled out. A close vote in the election could delay the formation of a new government for months and thus postpone the release of the plan. Some speculated that it might actually be unveiled before the election, but others said that is unlikely.
There were reports earlier this week that Trump was planning to do something to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his bid for re-election. The two have been close allies, and some speculated that Greenblatt decided to resign now because he does not agree with what Trump is planning.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Greenblatt said: “It has been the honor of a lifetime to have worked in the White House for over two and a half years under the leadership of President Trump. I am 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.”
Kushner issued his own statement, saying that Greenblatt “has done a tremendous job leading the efforts to develop an economic and political vision for a long sought after peace in the Middle East,” and that he would remain a “close friend and partner.”
David Makovsky, director of the Project on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he has found Greenblatt to be a “a very decent person who I think was seeking a win-win solution for Israelis and Palestinians. I’m sorry to hear of his resignation. To me, he was the one who is most associated with some of the policy prescriptions in the Trump peace plan, and I have to believe if he resigned he must have thought this plan was not coming out anytime soon. Perhaps Trump has made a decision to defer this issue until his second term.”
David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel with whom Greenblatt worked closely, said in a statement: “It’s been a tremendous privilege to work with Jason these past few years on the critical tasks of repairing and strengthening the US-Israel relationship and seeking peace and stability within the Middle East. Jason has been a trusted friend and a valued colleague who has touched so many with his wisdom, sincerity, and goodwill. He has made an enormous and indelible contribution which we will seek to build upon as we move forward.”
But Hanan Ashwari, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, had less than kind words for Greenblatt. In an interview with the Times of Israel, she called him an “apologist for Israel, a defender of the most extreme, hardline policies of this government in Israel and somebody who holds its ideologically right-wing views.”
“He was always on a crusade to malign the Palestinians and justify anything the Israelis do,” she added. “He was someone more suited to be a spokesman for Israel. At the same time, I don’t think it was personal. This administration certainly is not one that has been friendly to the Palestinians and all the people it has appointed have the clear prerequisite of being pro-Israel and holding an ideological commitment to Zionism and extreme Israeli hardline policies.”
Greenblatt was formerly a senior lawyer with the Trump Organization. He took a large salary cut to accept the White House job with an annual salary of $180,000. He and his wife have six children and live in Teaneck, N.J.