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Friday, December 02, 2022
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Reviewing: “In the Path of Abraham: How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East—And How to Stop Joe Biden From Unmaking It” by Jason Greenblatt. Wicked Son. 2022. English. Hardcover. 240 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1637583098.

Alfred Hitchcock used to say that the formula for his movies was to thrust an ordinary person into extraordinary circumstances.

While Jason Greenblatt hardly qualifies as an ordinary person, you could see how Hitchcock could have turned the last few years of his life into a thriller. That’s because what Greenblatt accomplished in just a few years serving in the Trump White House is thrilling indeed.

Greenblatt had been an attorney in Donald Trump’s real estate organization for decades, working on complex negotiations and deals with Trump family members and business associates. He had earned his boss’s trust and admiration, not just for his legal acumen but for his religious devotion. Greenblatt is an Orthodox Jew, married with six children, living in Teaneck.

So when Trump won the presidency in 2016, he offered Greenblatt the role of a lifetime—the opportunity to work on Middle East policy issues, including the Israel-Palestinian divide, as part of the new administration.

Greenblatt, after consulting with his family, agreed, and a whirlwind of events was set in motion, in his own life and in the life of the Middle East. Greenblatt tells of those events in his fascinating and fast-paced book, “In the Path of Abraham: How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East—And How to Stop Joe Biden From Unmaking It,” newly published by Post Hill Press.

A quick study, Greenblatt recounts that the State Department and other career officers in the U.S. government were extremely helpful getting him up to speed on the issues, personalities and history of the Israeli-Palestinian debate. Yet the principle attributed to Albert Einstein, that repeating the same steps and expecting a different outcome is insanity, became apparent to Greenblatt as he dug into the history of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Essentially, those negotiations boiled down to one thing: Israel would offer extraordinary concessions, and the Palestinians would always refuse. So going down that path didn’t seem especially fruitful.

The mainstream news media, not exactly pro-Trump in the first place, enjoyed chiding the new Middle East team of real estate lawyers, including Greenblatt, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and the new ambassador to Israel David Friedman, as a bunch of real estate lawyers with no experience in diplomacy. Yet sometimes “beginners’ mind” can be a good thing. The trio brought fresh thinking to the dilemma of how to resolve the political and social problems involving Israel and the Palestinians, and did not consider themselves bound by prior failed initiatives.

New thinking was in order after the feckless presidency of Barack Obama, Greenblatt writes. Greenblatt excoriates John Kerry, President Obama’s secretary of state, for his intransigence, his thoughtlessness toward Israel and his absolute certainty that nothing could be resolved in the Middle East until the issue with the Palestinians was handled.

At the same time, Greenblatt paints a complex and fascinating portrait of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, whose desires for peace were crippled by the absolutist legacy of his predecessor, Yasir Arafat, which meant that no deal could ever be acceptable, and also his challenges with Hamas, which held sway in the Gaza strip. The rivalry between Hamas and Abbas’s Palestinian authority was endless and all-but-irresolvable.

As a result, nothing had ever gotten done, and it was unlikely that anything ever would get done, even on Trump’s watch. But sometimes a breakdown is actually a breakthrough in disguise.

Greenblatt recognized that some of the Arab nations supporting the Palestinians were quietly tired of the intransigence of the beneficiaries of tens or millions of dollars of support, much of which was either wasted in corruption or spent on infrastructure that would be used as Gaza-based launching pads for attacks on Israel, only to be destroyed when the Israelis fought back.

Is it possible, Greenblatt, Kushner and Friedman wondered, that Israel could achieve diplomatic relations with some Arab nations despite the fact that the Palestinian issue was still unresolved?

With help from the Saudis, and with the support of President Trump, the trio were able to negotiate what they called the Abraham Accords, a nod to the father of Judaism and Islam, in which the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco all declared recognition of the State of Israel, with other nations likely to follow.

As a result, Israelis and an increasing number of their Arab neighbors recognize the common ground they share in terms of fear of a nuclear Iran, which was already the source of unstinting support for terrorism and destruction throughout the region and around the world.

“In the Path of Abraham” offers a breathtaking behind-the-scenes view of how these history-shaping agreements came to be, with intriguing portraits of Arab, Israeli and American leaders. The book is striking because of the author’s humility and awe over the fact that he was somehow permitted to participate in such world-shaking events and operate at such a high level.

He concludes his book with his concern that the current administration could undo all the good that the Abraham Accords have created because of Biden’s craven support of Iran, which was also the position of Biden’s “boss” when he was vice president.

There’s an expression that says that some people are born great, some people achieve greatness, and some people have greatness thrust upon them. Jason Greenblatt is a mix of all three—and his story is a diplomatic thriller of which Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Levin, a JewishLink columnist, is Publisher at JewishLeadersBooks.com, America’s leading destination for independently published Jewish memoirs and business books.

By Michael Levin

 

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