Foreign Policy

With Trump’s inspired envoy, peace in the Middle East is within reach

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Perhaps the most pronounced characteristic of the Middle East is noise. The noise and bluster of dictators and their showmanship. The noise of violent street demonstrations that have become all too common. And above all else, the noise of war.

It is positively visionary, therefore, that President Trump chose as his chief negotiator for international relations, whom he has just dispatched to the Middle East to begin the process of peace, a quiet and serious man, distinguished for humility rather than egotism and gentility rather than tempestuousness. 

Jason Greenblatt has been Donald Trump’s attorney for 20 years. He has the ear and confidence of the president — and with good reason. Few men whom you’ll meet stand out more for their even-keeled nature, ability to listen, and accordance to dignity to all whom they meet. 

Much has been made of the fact that Jason is an orthodox Jew. But whereas some observant Jews insist on the letter of the law, Jason also captures its spirit. He lives by Jewish values, and most specifically of seeing the image of God and a fragment of the divine in all whom he meets.

{mosads}Perhaps this would explain why he had such a productive meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Surely Abbas would have been a bit concerned that someone as deeply devoted to Judaism and with such deep ties to Israel as Jason might not have been agreeable. But while I am certainly no fan of Abbas, treating anyone with less than the highest courtesy is not in Jason’s nature, which is why I believe he stands a fighting chance of influencing the Palestinian Authority to abandon the hate rhetoric they teach their children and persuade them to make peace with the existence of a Jewish state.


These are major issues, and the Arabs have waged a war of nearly 100 years to destroy first the fledgling Jewish community and later the Jewish state. They have tried their best to demonize the Jewish people. But now, for the first time, they will be dealing with a personal representative of the president of the United States who is an orthodox Jew and represents the very finest of what Judaism has to offer. Jason will be impossible to demonize.

If it is true that Donald Trump’s children reflect well on the American president and soften his image even with his most ardent detractors, then Trump’s capacity to choose and maintain employees of Jason’s caliber for two decades is another giant feather in his cap. 

Jason is our neighbor, a resident of Teaneck, N.J., who has now been thrust into the international spotlight. I have seen no change in him since his appointment. He still carries himself with the same humility, warmth and unassuming nature. He wears the vast responsibilities placed upon him by the president resolutely and is utterly unflappable. 

I also believe that Jason’s spiritual commitments as a Jew will have an enormous impact on Israel’s Arab counterparts. The Arabs take their faith seriously and they know Jason does as well. In Ramallah they made sure to provide him with food that was acceptable to his kosher commitments. They know he’s a man of conviction and spiritual integrity and they respect him for it.

A silly article in The New York Times, which reported that Jason was chosen almost arbitrarily by candidate Trump to discuss Israel and the Middle East when he was in the middle of an interview with a Jewish newspaper, was beneath the newspaper of record. Such nonsense belies the relationship that the president had with Jason for two decades, when he watched his attorney leave early on Friday to honor God’s day and saw in Jason a brilliant negotiator and honest broker who might just bring two opposing sides together. For good measure, Jason has always related how absurd the accusations against Trump as being insensitive to Jewish concerns is, given how utterly accommodating the real-estate mogul always was to his observant, orthodox employees and their spiritual obligations, like not working on the Sabbath and Jewish festivals and observing prayer times during the work day. 

And I find it particularly impressive of Trump that he did not shy away from choosing an orthodox Jewish negotiator for the Middle East without fear that he’d be accused of bias toward one side. Trump did what was best for the country. He chose the best man for the job, and executor with a unique skill set of wisdom and calm perfectly suited to the tempest-tossed Middle East.

I am an American Jew who loves Israel, the eternal homeland of the Jewish people. But like Jason I am a Jew who reveres his faith and tradition with its earth-shattering teachings of seeing in every human being, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or creed, the image of God that is stamped on to all of God’s children. Jew, Arab, Christian, Hindu, atheist and agnostic are all equal, endowed with a spark of the divine that lends them infinite dignity. Jason’s diplomacy is based on these Jewish values as well as American.

I should mention a final quality about Jason that moves me. He has absolutely not a mean bone in his body. When he came to our annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala last year at the Marriott Marquis in New York City (this year’s gala on May 21 at Cipriani in New York City honors the memory of Elie Wiesel and features President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Martin Luther King III), not many knew who he was, seeing as he had not yet attained the high office in which he is now installed. The picture of Jason at the Gala has now gone viral. It’s the one being used by The New York Times. I have now seen some of those very same people do everything in their power to get to know him. A lesser man might feel slighted and want to return the compliment. But not Jason, who continues to treat all whom he meets with respect, cordiality and warmth, reminding me that great men are not made by presidential appointment but through the dignity they bestow on all whom they meet.


Shmuley Boteach is an American Orthodox rabbi, an international author of over 30 books, a TV host, activist and speaker. He was rabbi to Michael Jackson, Cory Booker and other public figures and has been recognized as one of the nation’s most influential rabbis by Newsweek and The Washington Post. Reach him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Israeli–Palestinian conflict Middle East Orthodox Judaism
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