April 24, 2018 — New York
Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, addressing the AJC Women’s Leadership Board Spring Luncheon today, declared that the Administration “is deeply committed to achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.” He was introduced to the audience of over 300 people by Dina Powell, via video, who until January served as Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy in the White House.
“Past failures do not absolve us of the responsibility to try,” he said. “I ultimately believe there may be a clear path toward peace,” adding that it will be “up to the parties themselves” to negotiate and conclude an accord. “True, lasting peace will be only as strong as the moral values that underlie it.”
Emphasizing that a solid U.S. relationship with Israel is key to peace, Greenblatt stated that “the President treats Israel the way a valued ally should be treated.” Under the Trump Administration, U.S.-Israel relations “are stronger than ever,” he added. “The revitalization of U.S.-Israel relations culminated in President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
Greenblatt said he is encouraged about the prospects for peace because in his travels across the region, meeting with Israeli and Arab officials, as well as citizens, he has found a commonality of interests to end the conflict, to find peace.
As an observant Jew, he said, he has found in his interactions with Arab leaders that “so many of us share the same hopes, dreams, aspirations.” He suggested that those commonalities make it possible for him and the rest of the U.S. peace team to make headway. “As people of faith, we have a better understanding of each other,” he noted.
On the practical level, he observed that Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with Israel, are “increasingly looking to Israel as a security and economic partner.”
To them, as well as to Israel and the Trump administration, “Iran is the source of instability in the region, not Israel,” said Greenblatt
On Iran, Greenblatt commented that “America looks forward to the day when we can restore our historical friendship with the Iranian people. They don’t want a government that squanders its resources on regional adventures.”
Regarding the Palestinian leadership, Greenblatt was pointedly critical of the Hamas-managed “hostile actions” along the Gaza-Israel border. “Astoundingly, Hamas, the de facto administrator of Gaza, can find no better use for its money than violence,” instead of addressing the dire situation in Gaza, where unemployment is high, electricity service is sporadic, and sewage is flowing,” asserted Greenblatt.
He also criticized the Palestinian Authority’s continuing support of terrorism: “You can’t make peace in an environment where violence is practiced and celebrated.”
He pointed out that the Taylor Force Act, which AJC supported, “dramatically reduces U.S. funds to the Palestinian Authority until they stop the abhorrent practice of paying stipends to terrorists and their families.”
Speaking of what can be possible in an atmosphere that may appear to be lacking in hope, Greenblatt mentioned his visit to the Galilee Medical Center, where several thousand Syrians severely injured in their country’s civil war have been treated in Israel. Dr. Masad Barhoum, Director General of the Galilee Medical Center, Greenblatt noted, was honored by the AJC Women’s Leadership Board last year.
“I’ve seen the wonder in the eyes of Syrian parents when they realize Israelis don’t want to kill them, but to help them,” he said.
“If one can find hope in something as terrible as the war in Syria, imagine what can happen with a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Greenblatt concluded.