Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, said Monday that despite spending “a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months,” the administration is not yet prepared to table a new proposal to jump-start the Israel-Palestinian peace process, or even to bring Israel-Palestinian leaders together.
“We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal—our goal is to facilitate, not dictate, a lasting peace agreement to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians and security across the region,” Greenblatt said in a statement released by the US Consulate General in Jerusalem.
Many Israeli leaders, most prominently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, welcomed Trump’s election a year ago, believing that the new administration would reverse eight years of US Middle East policy that they felt had left Israel vulnerable.
Netanyahu clashed frequently with former US President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry and was accused, both in Washington and Israel, of working with Congressional Republicans to undermine the president on Middle East policy issues.
The Obama-Netanyahu relationship was rocky from the outset: Following Netanyahu’s first visit to Obama’s Washington, the premier reportedly stepped grimly out of the Oval Office and said to aides in Hebrew, “We’ve got problems.” Netanyahu viewed Obama as hopelessly naive about radical Islam and about the Middle East in general; Obama, on the other hand, felt that Netanyahu’s intransigence was both unnecessary given Israel’s military strength and a barrier to US interests in the region.
In contrast, Netanyahu appeared relaxed and happy after meeting with the new president in February—Trump’s first with a foreign leader as president, after just three weeks in office. Addressing reporters following the talks, Netanyahu appeared to appreciate the president’s “no-nonsense” approach to policy, and shared a laugh with Trump when the latter said he would not force a two-state solution on unwilling sides.
“I’m looking at two-state and one–state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said.
Since then, Greenblatt has visited the region a half-dozen times, making clear the president’s desire for progress on what Trump calls the “deal of the century.” But over that process will hang the cloud stated most clearly by former President Bill Clinton: “We cannot want a deal more than the sides want one themselves.