It’s too soon to assess the significance of the departure of Jason Greenblatt from President Trump’s Middle East peace plan team that long consisted of Greenblatt and Jared Kushner – and the elevation of Avi Berkowitz into the former’s place. It has always appeared to us that U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Israel/Palestinian conflict largely reflected Trump’s thinking on the issue. And from recent reports, it would also appear that work on the purported peace plan has been essentially completed and it is now merely awaiting release.
It is no secret that while the Trump Administration is ready to go, the Palestinians have rejected the plan out of hand by virtue of the plan’s reputed abandonment of a two-state solution with a divided Jerusalem and an overarching emphasis on Palestinian economic development. So, unless there is to be a fundamental rethinking of Trump’s core thinking, of which there is nary a sign, it is hard to believe that there is any real substantive role for Kushner and Berkowitz to play. Certainly, the continued presence of Kushner, a senior aide to the president, strongly suggests a continuity of existing policy.
Moreover, the 30-year old Berkowitz plainly lacks the heft Greenblatt – though an international affairs novice, he was a veteran, seasoned attorney and negotiator – brought to the table. He certainly seems ill-suited for a profound redirection of U.S. Mideast policy.
Of course, those who see signals behind every change in affairs of state might think otherwise and detect a suggestion here to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that there may be some wiggle room in U.S. policy.
We trust, however, that there is little appetite for rewarding Palestinian recalcitrance.