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A Look At Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Envoy For Israeli-Palestinian Peace


President Trump's envoy for making peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a man who has worked as a lawyer for Trump's businesses. His name is Jason Greenblatt, and he's in the Middle East this week. NPR's Daniel Estrin spoke with people who've encountered Greenblatt and his particular style of peacemaking.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Jason Greenblatt has tweeted photos of himself meeting officials, clergy, Israeli university students, Palestinians in a refugee camp. Unlike other U.S. peace envoys, he offers a personal peek into the process. Here's another thing that makes him different from other U.S. envoys; he once studied in a Jewish religious seminary, a yeshiva, in a West Bank settlement.

ODED REVIVI: It's a bit difficult. But it's beyond - you see that red rooftop? - just behind that building.

ESTRIN: That's Oded Revivi, a Jewish settler leader. He was pointing out the window of his office in the West Bank toward the spot where Greenblatt studied. He met Greenblatt a few months ago. He says, it's the first senior U.S. administration official to meet with senior settler leadership. Trump's administration has taken a friendlier approach to West Bank settlements in occupied territory than previous administrations. Settler leader Revivi feels like Greenblatt's been in his shoes.

REVIVI: He understands the complexity. He used to shop in a supermarket that there are Jews and Arabs shopping in the same supermarket. So he understands the proximity and the complexity. I think it gives him a great advantage.

ESTRIN: Revivi says, in the meeting, Greenblatt was interested in listening and hearing his position. That's also the impression Greenblatt gave when he met with a group of Palestinian entrepreneurs, including Shadi Atshan.

SHADI ATSHAN: The Palestinians were talking. He was, most of the time, listening to what is being said.

ESTRIN: Both sides appreciated him listening. Atshan says Greenblatt seemed particularly interested when they told him Palestinians don't have 3G roaming internet. After the meeting, Israel said it would allow 3G service soon. But so far, that's just a promise, Atshan says.

ATSHAN: We are not real optimistic that the Trump administration will change our life positively.

ESTRIN: NPR hasn't been granted an interview with Greenblatt yet. The Trump administration has stressed that peace will take time. But the Palestinian leadership says the U.S. should move more quickly. Ahmed Majdalani, a confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, says Greenblatt has not put forth a framework for what a peace deal would look like, not even a commitment to creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Majdalani is waiting for news.

AHMED MAJDALANI: Until now, we didn't hear from Greenblatt any news about the vision of U.S.

ESTRIN: Neither side appears eager to start another peace process. Majdalani says there is no Israeli partner for peace. And Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, who also met with Greenblatt, told me the Palestinians can't deliver. David Makovsky, who was a member of the Obama administration's peace negotiations team, warns about the familiar blame game.

DAVID MAKOVSKY: I'm just worried about some of the public statements I'm seeing - makes me think that people are positioning themselves for failure more than striving for success.

ESTRIN: Makovsky says it's a sign leaders here don't expect a final peace deal. But he says, since neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians want to be the first to tell Trump no early on, it might be possible to take small steps toward peace.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANATOLE'S "SURROUNDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.