The Israeli Right’s dream about a US administration that would support the settlements anywhere, at any time and at any extent, seems to have vanished.
Trump’s envoy, Jason Greenblatt, came to the region looking for a deal. It doesn’t matter what deal, as long as it’s finalized quickly, and as long as Netanyahu and Abbas thank Donald the miracle worker.
The Jalazone refugee camp nearly touches the settlement of Beit El. The camp is located on the western side of the Ramallah-Nablus road, and the settlement is on the eastern side. A tall concrete wall was built along the road to prevent Jalazone teens from throwing stones at the settlement’s homes. It also prevents Beit El teens from seeing the wretchedness of the Jalazone homes.
Jalazone is home to members of the fourth and fifth generations of the 1948 refugees, and members of the third and fourth generations of the 1967 refugees, residents of villages in the Latrun area, whose lands were used to build Canada Park.
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, went to the trouble of visiting Jalazone last week. He later tweeted: “Met with youth leaders in the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah to understand their daily experiences.” He added a photo of himself sitting in a classroom, at the head of the table, with nine girls sitting to his right and to his left.
Greenblatt is one of President Trump’s three religious Jewish associates. The other two are Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his nominated ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Friedman and Kushner donated money in the past to the American Friends of the Beit El Yeshiva Center and got the Trump Foundation to donate something too. And then Trump was elected president, and their lives changed.
Greenblatt, on his first visit as the president’s envoy, chose to go to Jalazone, and did not take the opportunity to visit the settlement across the road too. That says something.
He also met with students in Bethlehem, to hear “their views on peace,” and with a small group of Palestinian high-tech entrepreneurs. In Ramallah, he sat down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a meeting he described as “positive” and “far-reaching.” In Israel, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (“a very positive and productive meeting”) and with President Reuven Rivlin (“great”). The Israelis took note of the fact that Yael Lempert, one of former President Barack Obama’s top Middle East advisors, escorted Greenblatt in all his meetings. Lempert is a professional diplomat. Nevertheless, that says something too.
Greenblatt, a 50-year-old lawyer who worked in Trump’s businesses, worded the White House statement during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington. In the statement, Israel was urged to restrain its settlement policy, a stance contradicting the spirit of Trump’s declarations during the election campaign.
“Why did you include this paragraph?” he was asked by a friend. “Did Netanyahu imply that he needs it in order to curb the pressures from the Right?”
Greenblatt appeared surprised by the question. “We didn’t even think about it,” he said. “I included the paragraph because I thought it was the right thing to do.”
It seems that Naftali Bennett’s dream about an administration that would support the settlements anywhere, at any time and at any extent, has disappeared. Trump’s people are walking on thin ice between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Obama despised the Saudi regime, despised its indirect involvement in terror, despised the corruption, despised the violation of human rights. Trump is winking at the Saudis, if not for strategic reasons, then just to prove that he is doing the opposite of what Obama did. The Saudis are focused on Iran, but they need something on the Palestinian issue.
Greenblatt came looking for a deal. It doesn’t matter what deal, as long as it’s finalized quickly, and as long as Netanyahu and Abbas thank Trump, Donald the miracle worker. It could be an Israeli agreement to pull out IDF forces and control construction in the settlements, in exchange for Abbas’ agreement to return to the negotiating table and fight incitement. Even less than that will do. In the meantime, Netanyahu has reached an agreement with Trump’s people: They will occasionally call on Israel to restrain the construction, and he will do his best. There is no real dispute here, just a game: You’ll tweet on me and I’ll tweet on you.
On his way to Israel, Greenblatt’s plane made an unexpected stop in Frankfurt. He rushed to tweet: “Time for morning prayer. Pray for peace.” He added a photo of a prayer shawl and phylacteries.
When he set foot in the Holy Land, however, his was bareheaded. The black skullcap had been removed. That may say something too.
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