Trump envoy: ‘Lack of peace has nothing to do with settlements’

Senior U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt challenged past administrations’ claims that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are an “obstacle” to peace. 

By World Israel News Staff 

On Monday, Jason Greenblatt expressed the Trump administration’s continued willingness to break with past protocol and diverge from conventional U.S. strategies for facilitating Arab-Israeli peace agreements.

Specifically, the senior Trump envoy commented, “The lack of peace has nothing to do with the existence of settlements [in Judea and Samaria], no matter what people say day in and day out.”

Greenblatt made the remark in a discussion with New York Times columnists Bret Stephens and rabbi and author Shmuley Boteach on the latter’s World Values Network, following similar comments by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Earlier this month, Friedman told the New York Times that “under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all” of Judea and Samaria.

As these statements illustrate, a key theme guiding Trump administration policy appears to be an acknowledgement that Israel has a historic claim and strategic right to retain various territories that, until now, American administrations have refused to publicly identify as belonging to the Jewish state.

In 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and subsequently moved the U.S.’ embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In March 2019, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The comments by Greenblatt and Friedman fly in the face of a commonly-stated argument over the course of decades that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria pose an obstacle to peace. Israel has been asked, if not ordered, by Washington on a number of occasions to freeze or limit “settlement” construction as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian Authority and because continuing to build Israeli communities was viewed as breaking up contiguous territory for a future Palestinian state.

With regard to the U.S.’ position on such communities, the Trump administration has broken with longstanding American positions.

Certain pro-Israel Democrats have also communicated similar sentiments about Judea and Samaria.

For example, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the annual policy conference of the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby group in 2018, “It’s sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.”

Schumer argued that the real problem is that “too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East.”