US President Donald Trump’s former representative for international organizations Jason Greenblatt may have left his White House job in September, but he’s not leaving his work in the region, he told The Jerusalem Post at the sidelines of the OurCrowd Global Investor Summit in Jerusalem on Thursday.
“I have been very inspired by the region,” Greenblatt said. “We are at a historical point of tremendous changes between Israel and the Gulf….I think we’ll be missing a tremendous opportunity to not see how this goes. We need to seize the opportunity.”
Greenblatt is committed to working on a more connected future between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, especially the Gulf countries, though he has yet to find the exact platform for his work.
“So many things have happened that I wouldn’t have predicted when I started my work in the White House in January of 2017, and there is more in store,” he said.
Still, Greenblatt added: “We have to be patient. We can’t force the countries. They will do it in their own time.”
Greenblatt did not know if there was any truth behind the reports of a possible summit between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gulf State leaders in Cairo, but said that such a meeting “would be fantastic” and “could only pave the way for peace.”
If the Gulf States continue to “pretend the connection [with Israel] doesn’t exist, they can’t move forward,” he added.
Earlier Thursday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan denied that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz plans to meet with Netanyahu, Channel 12 reported. Rabbi March Schneier told the Post this week, shortly after meeting with bin Farhan, that Gulf States would only consider holding such a meeting after Israel’s March 2 election.
Greenblatt also commented on the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, which he worked on for nearly three years and was made public two weeks ago.
Asked about criticisms that the plan only addresses Israeli needs and is not a real proposal for Palestinian statehood, Greenblatt said: “I wouldn’t have wasted three years. I could have done [a plan like] that in two or three months.”
He said he was not surprised or disappointed by the Palestinians’ automatic rejection of the plan, because that was the reaction he expected them to have.
“That’s why we give them four years. It’s different from what they promised their people and different from their aspirations. They talk about their rights, but aspirations are not rights,” Greenblatt remarked.
Citing “incredible benefits that could come to the Palestinians with this plan,” he expressed “hope that over time, they will engage with the Israelis.”
Greenblatt also came out against the use of the term “settlers” and “settlements,” saying those who use it mean it pejoratively.
“They’re towns. Call them what they are. It holds back peace to describe them with words that have political overtones. You can say West Bank or Judea and Samaria. But they’re not settlers; they’re Israelis. It’s not occupied territory – that’s a false term,” he stated.
As for the UN Human Rights Council’s blacklist of Israeli companies working in the West Bank, Greenblatt said it is “outrageous, and the fact that they put it out after the launch of the peace plan shows their true colors.”
The UNHRC is “incredibly biased” and the list “drives away peace and hurts Palestinians,” he added.
“Anyone who supports Israelis should buy two, three or four times as much of those goods and services” on the list, Greenblatt stated.