'Judea and Samaria communities aren't an obstacle to peace'

US envoy discusses the Bahrain Conference, says Palestinian Arabs missed a real opportunity and "not for the first time."

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Jason Greenblatt
Jason Greenblatt
Esti Desiubov/TPS

US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt addressed the Israel Hayom Forum in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Greenblatt spoke about the economic workshop that was held in Bahrain this week and criticized the Palestinian Arabs’ refusal to cooperate with the US-led peace plan.

"My job has its challenges and frustrations. But it also provides many blessings. I have the opportunity to work with such incredible people. People who don’t just want to make the world a better and safer place, but also people who have courage. People who have a clear vision for a safe and prosperous future,” he said.

“One of those people is President Donald J. Trump. He needs no introduction to this audience. No one in this room needs me to list the historic and bold and, most of all, courageous things President Trump has done for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I have been honored to work for President Trump for more than 22 years, and throughout all those years, he has shown the same tremendous courage.”

“Another of those people is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. You don’t need me to tell you about the sacrifices he has made for the people and the State of Israel, and the courage he has shown in defending Israel,” continued Greenblatt, who also pointed out Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, describing them as “tremendous givers of tzedakah [charity], performers of chesed [good deeds], always watching out for Israel, the Jewish people, and things near and dear to our hearts. Miriam and Sheldon – thank you for all you have done for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. You are true heroes.”

Discussing the US peace plan, Greenblatt said, “Over these past two and a half years, along with my colleagues on the US peace team – Jared Kushner and David Friedman, I have been on an incredible journey. We brought a fresh set of eyes and open ears. We watched, and listened, and studied, and learned, and we challenged what we thought we knew. Our teachers were many. They were government officials and diplomats – Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, and international. They were ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. They were people who suffered in this conflict. Christians, Muslims and Jews; religious and secular; children and adults. With them, we experienced many emotional and heart-wrenching moments. The Israel-Palestinian conflict has borne countless tragedies and much grief.”

“We also saw so much promise and so much potential. We saw this among Israeli soldiers who tirelessly fight every day to defend the State of Israel, from the many, ever-evolving threats to the State of Israel. We saw it among Palestinians living under the brutal rule of Hamas in Gaza.”

“We saw it among Palestinians who live in refugee camps, who have been used as pawns in a political game, and who should have been able to start new lives decades ago. We saw it among ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Among many of them, we found the same values, hopes and a healthy and unsurprising degree of skepticism about the prospects for peace.”

“On our journey, we also found much that was less encouraging. In some places, we found bitterness and cynicism.”

“We found some holding on tight to old resentments, refusing to let them go. We found some who told themselves the same stories that they learned decades ago as children, over and over again, so many times, and so loudly, that they were unable or unwilling to listen.”

“And among certain officials, we heard demands that are simply not achievable and that are unworkable.”

“We met with optimists and pessimists, the curious and the naysayers. We met those willing to look forward and see what might be, and those who insisted on dwelling in the past.”

“The optimists, the curious, and the courageous,” noted Greenblatt, “are willing to engage, to discuss to see if a realistic solution to the conflict exists. The pessimists and the naysayers have a tougher time trying to envision something different.”

“And then there is the third group – those with hate in their heart, who will never change. And they have no vision and they will remain in place.”

The US envoy noted that the US peace team has welcomed constructive criticism, adding, “We have learned a great deal from those who have shared their rational doubts, their very real concerns, and their respectful questions. We have embraced their wisdom, their expertise, and their ideas. We have benefited from spirited debate with our friends from across the political spectrum; American, Israeli, and Palestinian; Jordanian, Egyptian, and European.”

“They have been willing to use their hard-won experience and wisdom to inform bold choices, not to avoid hard decisions.”

He acknowledged that the quest for peace “is not a journey of self-delusion. There is no magic wand that President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu, or President Abbas can wave to resolve this conflict. There is no easy answer as to how to balance the absolute imperative of protecting Israel’s security – a principle on which the United States will never compromise – with Palestinian aspirations.”

“There is no quick fix for the people of Gaza, who suffer under the de facto rule of a corrupt, violent, and incompetent Hamas authority who have refused to yield to international pleas to put Gaza’s people first,” he added.

“To make a difference here, we have to have the courage to be honest with ourselves and others seeking a solution to the conflict. We have to have the courage to put aside slogans and jargon and to deal with reality. That approach has upset people, it makes people uncomfortable. But it is the only way to make progress,” said Greenblatt.

While the peace team has been accused of being undiplomatic at times, he continued, “I would note our critics are very rarely diplomatic in their messages to us. We can’t improve lives without being truthful. We can’t improve lives by making false promises or signing up for unrealistic and unworkable solutions.”

“President Trump told the truth when he recognized the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Nikki [Haley] told the truth when she called out hate and bias against Israel at the United Nations. And President Trump tells the truth when he says the United States will never compromise on Israel’s security,” he stressed.

“Yesterday’s peace plans have been unable to create a path to a brighter and more prosperous future while addressing the many challenges to overcome.”

“Silence and rejection from the Palestinian Authority has led to nothing good for the Palestinian people. Terrorism by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad has led to nothing but continued suffering and misery for the Palestinians of Gaza,” continued Greenblatt.

Turning to the Bahrain Conference this week, Greenblatt said, “I have just returned from Bahrain, where hundreds attended an exciting US-Bahraini Peace to Prosperity workshop. It is a shame that the Palestinian Authority chose not to attend and to try to convince others not to attend. They distorted our message and attempted to undermine our progress. But they did not succeed.”

“Not for the first time, they missed a real opportunity. By drawing the curtain around themselves, and turning their back on friends and partners from across the world, they missed the opportunity to see what is on the other side of that curtain,” he continued.

“And what is on the other side? A brighter future for Palestinians and for the entire region drafted by people willing to say that the status quo is not good enough. An alternative path with the potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinian people if they choose to follow it. An exciting economic vision, with real projects and programs, with the potential to unleash sustainable, private sector-driven growth. A new life for the next generation of Palestinians.”

Greenblatt suggested that one of the ways to “untangle this mess” of the Israeli-Arab conflict is “if people recognize that vague terms such as 'international law,' 'UN Resolutions' and 'internationally recognized parameters' are not always clear cut, are interpreted differently by different parties in good faith and do not provide an executable solution to end this conflict.”

“We might get there if people stop pretending settlements, or what I prefer to call neighborhoods and cities, are the reason for the lack of peace,” he added.

“We might get there if other countries, not just the United States and Israel, call out the PA’s vile 'pay to slay' policy and push the PA to end this abhorrent practice. We might get there if others stop pretending this conflict is the core conflict in the Middle East. It’s not,” declared Greenblatt.

The US and President Trump “are committed to fighting for a better future – for Palestinians, for Israelis, and for the entire Middle East,” he stressed, while adding that the US embraces the challenge.

“The conflict is sad, tragic and complex on so many levels. There are no guaranteed results. Success can only be achieved, if at all, with direct negotiations between the parties, not by bypassing negotiations, not by more UN resolutions, not by international conferences that create bullet points of peace terms that cannot be implemented,” explained Greenblatt.

“Tonight let us celebrate the value so many of you have shown, and the value to which we should all aspire – courage. The courage to tell the truth, the courage to stand by our friends and allies, the courage to imagine and hope and work toward a better future, while also recognizing reality.”

“Let us stand strong, work and pray for a better future for the entire region. Let us take the experience that we had in Bahrain- with Israelis and Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians and others who discussed big ideas. Let us take the prayers from the synagogue in Bahrain that had no Torah, but a beautiful minyan for the first time ever, and see if we can make progress for Israel and its neighbors, including the Palestinians, work and live together as good neighbors and to defend themselves together against the very real threats that they all face.”