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Mideast Envoy Greenblatt Resigns


President Trump's foray into Middle East peacemaking seems to be in doubt once again. One of the key advisers drafting Trump's plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace is leaving the White House. And there is no sign yet of when or if the plan will be released. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Jason Greenblatt was a lawyer for the Trump Organization before he was tapped to work with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner in drafting a peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians. Just a couple of months ago, he was on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, saying the administration's draft was essentially finished.


JASON GREENBLATT: We're a lawyer is - our nature is to continue to tinker with it until the president asks us to put our pencils down. But if he asked us to put our pencils down tonight, we could put our pencils down tonight and hear it when he's ready.

KELEMEN: Now Greenblatt says he's leaving the White House in the coming weeks. Officials say he's still holding out hope that the plan will be released before he leaves. There had been indications it could happen soon after Israel's elections this month. But the White House will only say that this long-delayed plan will be released when it is appropriate. Many experts see Greenblatt's departure as a sign that the draft won't see the light of day or, even if it does, won't lead to peace talks.

Here's David Makovsky of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

DAVID MAKOVSKY: I noticed in his last tweet he doesn't use the word plan. He used the word vision, which I think - I don't want to be Talmudic, but I think it shows, also, kind of, this is our reference point for the future, as opposed to tomorrow at 9 a.m. - all sides are sitting around the table.

KELEMEN: Administration officials praised Greenblatt for playing an important role in the administration's decision to recognize Israel's claims to sovereignty over the Golan Heights and to Jerusalem as Israel's capital. That move angered Palestinians who have since refused to engage with the Trump White House.

Palestinian officials said they won't miss Greenblatt. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked him for his dedicated work. President Trump is praising him as a loyal and great friend, writing on Twitter that Greenblatt's, quote, "dedication to Israel and to seeking peace" won't be forgotten.

Greenblatt is moving back to New Jersey to be with his wife and six children. One of his aides, Avi Berkowitz, will step into his role. And the State Department's point person on Iran, Brian Hook, will play a larger role on the team still led by Jared Kushner.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.