By Larry Gordon
There are many high points to the spellbinding story told by Jason Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jewish family man from Teaneck and longtime lawyer for the Trump organization eventually appointed as a special assistant to the president and special representative for international negotiations.
Greenblatt, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman were the triumvirate players who, at the president’s direction, orchestrated the Abraham Accords that led to peace agreements between Israel and Gulf States like United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco. Other Gulf States like Saudi Arabia are on board but have so far not officially made the move.
The new book, In the Path of Abraham, takes the reader on the exciting odyssey of a Yeshiva University graduate who spent his gap year in yeshiva in Gush Etzion—an area arguably at the center of the matter that divides Israel, Palestinians, and other Arab countries—to the Trump company and then, somewhat unexpectedly, to the White House.
Jason Greenblatt was a lead contract attorney with the Trump organization for almost two decades. Donald Trump had a number of Orthodox Jewish employees and was always sensitive to their sometimes-unusual work schedule that meant leaving early on Friday during the winter months in New York and the yomim tovim that can make it seem like your frum employees have disappeared for parts of September, October, and April.
After Trump won the presidency, it did not take long for him to ask Jason to join his White House team. Greenblatt writes that he told the president that he needed to think about the offer and talk it over with his wife, Naomi, and some of his children, but he knew as soon as Trump asked that the answer was yes—he would be pleased to serve the president and the country in the White House.
As depicted in the book, Mr. Greenblatt was a key player in deconstructing the long-held belief and U.S. policy that the matter of the two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state had to be addressed prior to any other Middle East issues. That question was turned on its head as the efforts by Jason, Jared, and others led to several Gulf countries signing peace deals with Israel, placing the needs of their people and their economy ahead of the long-drawn-out Palestinian issue that had been stalled for many years.
As he writes, having lived and breathed these issues all his adult life, one of Greenblatt’s objectives was to give peace brokerage in the region a chance to succeed. It was former Secretary of State John Kerry who was committed to the idea that no peace with the Gulf States was possible if the Israeli–Palestinian issues were not solved first. Jason Greenblatt proved John Kerry wrong.
The unique aspect of these breakthrough efforts—as has been written here in the past—was that the strategy on how to proceed was designed to a great extent by young men with solid Jewish educational backgrounds, namely Mr. Greenblatt, Ambassador Friedman, Jared Kushner, and Avi Berkowitz. I mentioned in our conversation with Jason that this might have been a part of Mahmoud Abbas’s worst nightmare.
In the Path of Abraham is a quick, captivating read. We talked about the common Muslim and Jewish knowledge of Abraham, or, as the Arab world refers to him, Ibrahim, and how that common fundamental belief was a reality that helped to facilitate the negotiations between the U.S. and these other countries.
About the book Trump said: “Jason Greenblatt served the United States with distinction during his time at the White House. He played a significant role in helping establish my historic policies and achievements regarding our Middle East allies, including those relating to Jerusalem and the Abraham Accords.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The Abraham Accords will stand the test of time. Read Jason Greenblatt’s book to learn about the work that led to these historic peace deals and how standing with our allies and friends is an essential complement to diplomacy. Jason writes with the same power and clarity he showed working for America and its relationship with Israel.”
Some other topics we covered in our conversation included how Greenblatt spent his first Shabbos in Saudi Arabia mostly in his hotel room eating rice cakes and some fruit. It took a little time, but he eventually grew comfortable wearing his yarmulke in the United Arab Emirates, and he is particularly proud that even though some involved in the process received a heter (rabbinical permission) to travel on Shabbos, despite the whirlwind globetrotting he was never in that position.
This great book takes us on a historical odyssey that accomplished so much and may someday be the basis to achieving so much more.
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