The White House on Saturday stated that Avi Berkowitz would replace US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt after he announced his resignation on Thursday. The White House further stated that “Brian Hook will take on an increased role in the team.”
Hook has served as US Special Representative for Iran and a Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He previously served as the Director of Policy Planning under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Berkowitz, 30, is an Orthodox Jew who assisted White House adviser Jared Kushner in his years in the private sector, then during US President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and later in the White House he served as a “special assistant.”
Berkowitz has a strong connection to Judaism and Israel. He grew up in Lawrence, Long Island, a town with a large Jewish community. A former student of the Kol Torah Yeshiva in Jerusalem, he speaks fluent Hebrew.
Greenblatt served as Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East for over two years and has been a key figure in the administration’s attempts to facilitate a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The timing of Greenblatt’s resignation was puzzling to many, as the peace plan he had worked on for over two years was said to be unveiled in the coming weeks, following the Israeli elections on September 17th.
Though the announcement caught many by surprise, the White House said in a statement that he had initially planned to serve in his position for two years, but stayed on longer as the peace plan was continuously delayed.
Trump praised Greenblatt’s long service in the White House and thanked him for his hard work.
“After almost three years in my Administration, Jason Greenblatt will be leaving to pursue work in the private sector. Jason has been a loyal and great friend and fantastic lawyer. His dedication to Israel and to seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians won’t be forgotten. He will be missed. Thank you Jason!” he tweeted.
Greenblatt, in turn, thanked Trump for the opportunity to work for him. “Thank you [President Trump], it’s been the honor of a lifetime. So grateful to have worked on the potential to improve the lives of millions of Israelis, Palestinians & others,” he tweeted.