TEL AVIV – President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt on Sunday supported comments made last week by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman upholding Israel’s right to retain parts of the West Bank.
“I will let David’s comments stand for themselves,” said Greenblatt at the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York. “I think he said them elegantly and I support his comments.”
In an interview published by the New York Times last Saturday, Friedman said, “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”
In a statement issued shortly thereafter, the State Department clarified Friedman’s remarks, saying annexation was not on the table: “The administration position on settlements has not changed. No plan for unilateral annexation by Israel of any portion of the West Bank has been presented by Israel to the U.S. nor is it under discussion.”
The White House has committed to unrolling the economic portion of its long-anticipated peace proposal at an economic peace workshop in Bahrain next week.
According to Greenblatt, the Bahrain summit will present how a Palestinian economy could look if a peace agreement were to be reached.
“The Bahrain summit is aimed to show what could happen to the Palestinian economy if there’s a peace agreement,” he continued. “We understand completely that there is no economic vision that’ll work without a peace agreement. But we also want to make the point that there will be no peace agreement that works without true economic vision. We’re trying to break the cycle of aid and dependency and create an economy. They work hand in hand.”
Greenblatt declined to talk about the plan’s specifics, saying only, “We hold something very delicate in our hands. If we keep a tight lid on it, we increase chances of success.”
He implied that the rest of the peace plan may only be released in November, after the September 2019 national elections in Israel
“The new elections have thrown us off,” Greenblatt said.
Greenblatt added that the Trump administration is not seeking to replace the current Palestinian Authority leadership.
“I think that the Palestinian leadership’s negotiating style is such that they explain what they want and they’re unwilling to engage beyond that,” he said. “And that doesn’t mean they’re not going to compromise, but they have a certain style of negotiation. So if anybody says we did not engage with the Palestinian Authority — we did for a year. We understand all of their wishes, their desires and their methods.”
“We are not looking for a regime change, and we understand that there’s leadership there that gets to make decisions,” he stated. “Whether there should be a new election or not, I’ll stay out of the politics of the Palestinian Authority — but there’s no question that the people deserve to see what’s in the plan and decide for themselves whether it’s for them, whether they want to do this or don’t want to do this. The same is true of the Israeli public.”