Trump Peace Envoy Scolds U.N.: Israel Bashing Will Not Foster Peace

'This was a very unconventional speech in front of a crowd that is used to the conventional'

Getty Images
July 23, 2019

President Donald Trump's Middle East peace envoy on Tuesday delivered a scathing rebuke of the United Nations before the body's Security Council, telling member states that the organization's constant Israel bashing does nothing to help the parties get any closer to worthwhile negotiations.

Jason Greenblatt, the administration's special representative for international negotiations, took an unprecedented stand at the U.N., telling international leaders their anti-Israel "drumbeat of tired rhetoric" is "designed to prevent progress and bypass direct negotiations." Palestinians will not earn themselves a state by continuously bashing Israel, sponsoring terrorism, and using the U.N. as cover to delegitimize the Jewish state, Greenblatt said.

His remarks come as the Trump administration works to garner support for the economic portion of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. This includes galvanizing regional leaders to back multi-million dollar investments in the Palestinian territories in order to help build the infrastructure for a future state. The second portion of the administration's plan, which still remains secret, will focus on land swaps and other mechanisms meant to facilitate a final peace agreement.

The Palestinian government's continued use of the U.N. to bash Israel, the furor from it and its international partners at the U.N. at the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital city, as well its unilateral demands that East Jerusalem be the future capital of its state, will not alter the factual realities on the ground Greenblatt said, in some of the most direct comments on the matter to date.

"It is true the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] and the Palestinian Authority continue to assert that East Jerusalem must be a capital for the Palestinians," Greenblatt said. "But let's remember: An aspiration is not a right."

"Please do not read into that statement anything about the content of the political portion of the plan," he continued. "I am making a simple statement of fact."

"Aspirations belong at the negotiating table. And only direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians can resolve the issue of Jerusalem, if it can be resolved," Greenblatt said. "It will not be resolved in this chamber, in this institution, or in any other capital around the world.

U.S. officials familiar with the plan told the Washington Free Beacon that Greenblatt's remarks were meant to help snap the United Nations out of its conventional framework, which often focuses on Israel as the source of tension in the region.

"This was a very unconventional speech in front of a crowd that is used to the conventional," the official said, speaking only on background about ongoing diplomatic issues. "The point Jason was conveying is not whether or not we support international law, as some misconstrued, but that together, as an international community, we have been approaching this conflict the same way for 60 years and that approach hasn't worked."

"The old way of tired talking points will never bring peace—only direct negotiations between the parties will do that, and the international community should be encouraging the Palestinians to engage," the official said.

Greenblatt made clear in his remarks that the U.N. has often helped to perpetuate the conflict with one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel.

"Among the many obstacles we face is the constant drumbeat of tired rhetoric that is designed to prevent progress and bypass direct negotiations. It is time to retire that rhetoric," he said.

"Let me get a little specific here. This conflict will not be ended on the basis of an 'international consensus' about who is right and who is wrong, about who should give up X and who should give up Y," Greenblatt said, declaring that the Trump administration refuses to get absorbed in this debate.

The U.N., Greenblatt pointed out, could not even reach a consensus on labeling Hamas—one of the chief agitators in the region—a terrorist organization.

"This failure is profoundly shameful," he said. "If we could not even find an international consensus regarding Hamas, is an international consensus really going to end this conflict?"

"And how is it that we can't find an international consensus that the Palestinian Authority rewarding terrorism and the murder of Israelis with public funds, some donated by countries in this room, is abhorrent and must be stopped?" Greenblatt asked.

"International consensus is not international law. So let's stop kidding ourselves," he continued. "If a so-called international consensus had been able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would have done so decades ago. It didn't. This conflict is also not going to be resolved by reference to 'international law' when such law is inconclusive."

"International law with respect to this conflict is a tricky subject that could be discussed and argued for years without ever reaching a clear conclusion," Greenblatt said. "So we can spend years and years arguing what the law is and whether it is enforceable, and prolong the ongoing suffering. Or we can acknowledge the futility of that approach."

Again focusing his criticism on U.N. member nations, Greenblatt said, "this conflict will not be resolved by constantly referencing the hundreds of U.N. resolutions on the issue. The constant reference to these heavily negotiated, purposely ambiguously worded resolutions is nothing more than a cloak to avoid substantive debate about the realities on the ground and the complexity of the conflict."

"President Trump has not yet decided when we will release the political portion of the plan, and we hope to make that decision soon," Greenblatt said. The economic portion of the Trump administration peace plan was recently put on display during a conference in Bahrain that featured leaders and business people from across the region.

"We hope that when the right time does come, that frustration will dissipate—as will the frustration we all have about the lack of any progress toward resolution of this conflict and the lack of progress to improve lives and the security challenges that plague Israel and much of the region," he said.