US official leading Israeli-Palestinian peace plan resigns

Last Modified Friday, 6 September 2019 (12:18 IST)
Jason Greenblatt, the architect of the US plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, has stepped down. His exit without releasing a peace plan has sparked more uncertainty over Washington's strategy.
Jason Greenblatt, a top US adviser on and one of the key figures in drafting Washington's plan for Middle East peace, resigned Thursday amid growing skepticism over the viability of the unreleased US proposal. 
 
Greenblatt, a former lawyer for the Trump Corporation, said last week that the US peace plan would not be released until after the September 17 Israeli election that will decide whether Benjamin Netanyahu remains Israel's prime minister.
 
Although Greenblatt never participated in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, he had worked closely with US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on developing the plan, the contents of which have been closely guarded.
 
A senior US official said Greenblatt left on good terms to spend more time with his family and that he "holds the confidence of the president."
 
Kushner said Greenblatt's work had  "helped develop the relationships between Israel and its neighbors," and said he is "trusted and respected by all of the leaders throughout the region."
 
"I am incredibly grateful to have been part of a team that drafted a vision for peace. This vision has the potential to vastly improve the lives of millions of Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region," said Greenblatt in a statement. 
 
Criticism from Palestinians
 
Some Palestinians have already said they would reject any plan from the US, and have accused the Trump administration of being biased toward Israeli interests. Tentative plans to release the proposal have already been dropped at least twice. 
 
Greenblatt was criticized by Palestinians for advocating the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, along with recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He was also part of the Trump administration's push to cut US funding for the aid of Palestinian refugees.
 
After Greenblatt announced his departure, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Greenblatt had "ruined the credibility" of the US and "destroyed" the peace process with Israel.
 
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, told the AFP news agency that Greenblatt's departure was a US "admission of failure."
 
"They tried to bash the Palestinians into submission, to blackmail us to accept whatever their plan was. From the beginning it was doomed to failure," she said. "I think the Palestinians as a whole are going to say 'good riddance'. He was an apologist for the most extreme, hard-line government in the history of Israel."
 
Netanyahu thanked Greenblatt "for his dedicated work for security and peace and for never hesitating to tell the truth about the state of Israel to its detractors."
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