US Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt on Tuesday evening spoke at a a conference held by the Institute for National Security Studies about American efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"In Judaism, the word 'peace' is found in the common greeting 'Shalom aleichem.' In the Muslim world, 'Asalam Aleichem,' or 'peace be with you,' is similarly used. And yet, despite the similar emphasis and articulation of peace in their most common greetings, pursuing peace between Israelis and Palestinians can seem a daunting, even impossible task," Greenblatt said.
"I firmly believe that there is a real path towards peace," he emphasized. "Much has changed since my first trip to the region in 1983. At that time, the prevailing interest of the Arab world, with the exception of Egypt, was the rejection of Israel, including calls for its destruction and the very real possibility of war."
Greenblatt noted that today, the atmosphere has changed: "Confronted with an emboldened and aggressive Iran and populations eager for economic opportunity, many leaders understand that Israel is not the problem, and in fact Israel can be part of the solution."
"US President Donald Trump has brought a fresh set of eyes, and energy, to the task of peacemaking. It is clear that President Trump's actions and language have changed expectations about what is possible. He has revitalized the discussion and language of peace in the region."
Greenblatt emphasized that the Trump administration is not looking to force a solution on Israel.
"I want to take this opportunity to cut through the noise," he said. "Our approach is rooted in the belief that instead of working to impose a solution from the outside, we must give the parties space to make their own decisions about their future. Our approach is also guided by the belief that instead of laying the blame for the conflict at the feet of one party or the other, we must focus on unlocking new areas of cooperation that benefit both Israelis and Palestinians."
"To this end, the President has made clear that he will support whatever the two sides can agree to. We will not impose a deal on either party. But we know that the desire for peace is real, it is powerful, and it must be harnessed.
"When President Trump made his historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he was not rewriting history. He was recognizing reality.... We deeply believe that recognizing this reality was an important step not just for Israel but to laying the groundwork for a comprehensive, enduring, and real peace. That's why the President took great care to explain what his decision does and does not mean.
"Peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism's thousands of years of connection to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Peace will not be achieved by walking away from negotiations. Peace only has a chance of success through respectful, continuous dialogue, and through negotiations."
Emphasizing that walking away from the negotiating table would harm Palestinian Authority Arabs, Greenblatt acknowledged that the road would not be smooth.
"We must be prepared for it to be filled with bumps and disappointments, and as with most complex issues, we will have our good days and our bad days, our good weeks and our bad weeks," he said.
"As Vice President Mike Pence said in Jerusalem last week, 'We know Israelis want peace and we know that Israelis need no lectures on the price of war. The people of Israel know the terrible price all too well.'
"America has always been here with you in advancing the way along a negotiated path. That's been true in the past, it is true in the present, and it will be true in the future."