WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s adviser on international relations, is touring Israel and the Palestinian areas to gauge attitudes to peacemaking and there will likely not be any developments from the trip, a Trump administration spokesman said.
“He’s really there to listen to both sides and how they perceive getting to a peace process,” Mark Toner, the State Department spokesman, said Monday in the daily briefing for reporters. “I don’t expect any big developments out of this trip.”
Trump has expressed an eagerness to bring about a peace deal while retreating from 15 years of U.S. policy backing a two-state outcome to the peace process.
On Friday, Trump spoke on the phone with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, and the White House readout of the call sounded bullish on the prospects for peace.
“The President emphasized his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal,” the readout said. “The President noted that such a deal would not only give Israelis and Palestinians the peace and security they deserve, but that it would reverberate positively throughout the region and the world.”
Trump on the call invited Abbas to the White House. The U.S. leader met last month with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
During that visit, Netanyahu appeared to be taken aback by a request from Trump to stop settlement expansion for now. Settlement building was a key point of tension between Netanyahu and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and both Netanyahu and Trump have said relations would be smoother now.
Toner said settlements would be discussed during the trip, but also cautioned against any expecting any pronouncements.
“Settlements will obviously be a topic of discussion, but I wouldn’t predict there would be any resolution of that issue,” he said. “As we said earlier just a few weeks ago, with respect to settlements, we see them as a challenge that needs to be addressed at some point.”
Greenblatt, a longtime lawyer to Trump, solicited followers this week on Twitter to track his trip.
“Honored to be meeting with Israelis and Palestinians this week as I travel to the region,” he said. “Follow me for updates on the trip!”
Honored to be meeting with Israelis and Palestinians this week as I travel to the region. Follow me for updates on the trip!— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) March 12, 2017
Greenblatt, who is an Orthodox Jew, tweeted Monday from a stop in Frankfurt, Germany, that he was saying shacharit, the morning prayer, and called on followers to “pray for peace.”
Time for morning prayer (shacharit) at unexpected stop in Frankfurt. Pray for peace. @jdgreenblatt45pic.twitter.com/VHNAhOWwCY— Jason D. Greenblatt (@JasonDovEsq) March 13, 2017
Netanyahu later posted a photo of their meeting, welcoming Greenblatt.
With @jdgreenblatt45, special representative of US President Donald Trump. Welcome to Jerusalem! pic.twitter.com/4PihlQ62QS— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 13, 2017
Greenblatt is also due to meet with Abbas in Ramallah.