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Peace In The Middle East — Jason Greenblatt

Peace In The Middle East — Jason Greenblatt

Real Talk: The Charles Mizrahi Show podcast

Peace In The Middle East — Jason Greenblatt

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What will it take for peace in the Middle East? Jason Greenblatt, former White House Envoy to the Middle East, explored the answer to this question during his tenure in the Trump Administration. In this episode, host Charles Mizrahi sat down with Greenblatt to talk about how the Abraham Accords were concluded and why they offer a way forward to a new era of peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

Topics Discussed:

  • An Introduction to Jason Greenblatt (00:00:00)
  • Hamas Takes Control (00:07:58)
  • Aspirations Aren’t Rights (00:13:54)
  • Leveling the Playing Field (00:22:35)
  • Democracy and Entrepreneurship (00:26:49)
  • Abraham Accords (00:31:46)
  • The Endgame (00:38:20)
  • Peace in the Middle East (00:45:46)

Guest Bio:

Jason Greenblatt is an author, editor, and podcast host. Most notably, he was the executive vice president and chief legal officer of President Donald Trump and The Trump Organization. He also served as a White House Special Envoy to the Middle East for The Trump Administration.

Today, he’s a contributing editor to Newsweek and host of the podcast “The Diplomat,” where he brings depth and transparency to discussions about foreign affairs. Greenblatt recently released his book (below), which gives readers an insider’s perspective on the Abraham Accords. It also serves as an urgent call to action for Biden Administration to not abandon the progress that the Trump Administration made in the Middle East.

Resources Mentioned:

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Read Transcript

JASON GREENBLATT: The name Abraham was used because Abraham was the patriarch of all three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. One of the phrases I used to use when I went to the Arab countries — way before the Abraham Accords were ever really a twinkle in anybody’s eye — was “It was time to bring the family back together again.” And that really resonated with people.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: My guest today is Jason Greenblatt. Jason was appointed by President Trump in 2017 as an assistant to the President and special representative for international negotiations. In his role as the White House Special Envoy to the Middle East, Jason served as one of the chief architects of the Peace to Prosperity Plan between Israel and Palestinians and between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Jason was also a key player in building the foundation for the Abraham Accords, through which the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Sudan and the Kingdom of Morocco have normalized relations with Israel. His latest book, In the Path of Abraham How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East and How to Stop Joe Biden from Unmaking It. I recently sat down with Jason, and we talked about how the Abraham Accords were concluded and why they offer a way forward to a new era of peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Jason, thanks so much for coming on the show. I greatly appreciate and was looking forward to our meeting from the first time I heard you speak. It was back in April time.

JASON GREENBLATT: Well, thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: All right. Great. Folks, the name of the book is In the Path of Abraham How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East and How to Stop Joe Biden from Unmasking It by Jason Greenblatt. Jason, I want to start right from the beginning. How does a real estate guy like you, your real estate lawyer, you were executive vice president and the Trump Organization? You’re from what I hear from friends of mine who dealt with you. You’re a fantastic, honest, fair attorney. You. We shook hands and people had a deal and you were above board. How did you get into the world of politics and living in Washington?

JASON GREENBLATT: So, I worked for then Donald Trump before he became President Trump for 20 years. So, I eventually grew to become his chief legal officer and executive vice president. And one day he decided to run for president. During the time that he ran, he wanted to rely on people who he trusted. I was one of those trusted people in particular for Israel. He wanted to put onto the team people who he knew, loved and supported Israel. I was one of those lucky people. And lo and behold, I ended up in Washington, D.C., by the way, in diplomacy, not politics. I’m not a fan of politics. I think in so many ways politics is broken and monkeys up the ranch. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good politicians. There certainly are. But some politicians are really out for themselves and stop things. So, I was much more comfortable in my role as a diplomat.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Okay. So, you have you, David Friedman, another person who worked in the in the Trump Organization and his son in law, Jared Kushner, put you three guys together and charges you with what?

JASON GREENBLATT: So, David and Jared, both friends of mine, Jared, President Trump’s son in law. David, an attorney, actually didn’t work in-house at the Trump Organization or worked on the outside on certain deals that then Donald Trump was looking on. He tasked us with a couple of different things. The first is strengthening or reestablishing a stronger US-Israel relationship. He felt that the US-Israel relationship had suffered under the prior administration, the Obama administration. The second was to see if a deal could be had between Israel and the Palestinians. He knew it was a longshot, but he has tremendous optimism and loves working on the impossible. So that was the second task. And the third, which was sort of borne out of the fact of the second, was to see if we could make peace between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What was the barrier? Because you put it I in the book, but I just want to talk it out with you. What has been the barrier for so long between the Palestinians and the Israelis over a small area in the Middle East, which is they call the West Bank, which Israel calls Judea and Samaria? What is the essence of that conflict there? Why can’t it be resolved?

JASON GREENBLATT: So, the first barrier, which many people forget, is that the Palestinians themselves are split between two areas. Some live in what I call Judea and Samaria, and others called the West Bank, which should never, by the way, be called occupied Palestinian territory, because that’s just a false label. There was never a Palestinian state there before. People pretend that Israel came in and took over another country’s land. That’s not true. So, this label occupied Palestinian territory, is a false label. But then there’s also 2 million Palestinians in Gaza ruled by the iron fist of Hamas. Hamas is a bloodthirsty terrorist organization controlled by and funded by Iran. So, one of the obvious blocking points is, even in the best of circumstances, if Bibi Netanyahu and President Abbas then were to sit in a room and write up a peace deal that they could both live with, what happens to the Palestinians in Gaza? Why would Israel sign a deal with half of the people who have a claim? And when I first started at the White House, I would ask that question of my State Department and national security colleagues most of the time. And, you know, the first few answers were, don’t talk about that. You know, we know that’s a problem. And nobody likes hearing that. You know, we like to talk about the two-state solution is what they say. So, let’s not focus on Gaza. But really, when you think about it and maybe because I’m a deal person, I worked in the private sector, in the business world. You can’t ignore really fundamental parts of the deal.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Hang on 1/2, Jason. So, let’s be let’s be clear for those who don’t know Gaza until 2005 was Israel one that in 1967, during the 1967 war. And in 2005, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, withdraws from Gaza, destroys settlements, relocates Jews who are living there, who really literally I remember going there, they literally made the desert boom. This was sand, and they created greenhouses. And a friend of mine, they sold flowers to Europe, just beautiful in greenhouses. They left they gave them to the Palestinians. And then in short order, what happens?

JASON GREENBLATT: The Hamas destroyed so much of that, right? They destroyed the greenhouses. Palestinians are suffering there not because of Israel. Everybody likes to say, oh, Israel and Egypt are blockading Gaza. Well, they do have a blockade in place for things that could be turned into weapons. That’s true. And that includes concrete, by the way, because instead of using concrete to build schools and hospitals and homes, Hamas diverts much of that concrete to dig to build terror tunnels after they dig them. And so much of what goes into Gaza, they repurposed for weaponry. So, there’s a blockade to protect Israel, there’s a blockade to protect Egypt. But the real suffering is caused by Hamas. But it’s good that you gave the background once Israel left, once it withdrew from Gaza. The only thing I got in return were missiles being launched constantly from Gaza toward Israel, including at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Attack tunnels or terror tunnels with fighters from Hamas trying to infiltrate into Israel. Balloons, incendiary balloons that they flowed over the border between Gaza and Israel with the intent and successfully so of lighting up Israel’s fields to cause fire and all sorts of damage. So, they got nothing in return except for fighting and misery.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: How did how did Hamas take control of Gaza?

JASON GREENBLATT: They it was it was basically a bloody coup. They took over for the Palestinian Authority pretty quickly, I might add. And they’re well-funded by Iran. So, it wasn’t much of a fight.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and the of Hamas controlled Gaza, they don’t see eye to eye, or they link up, they do shout out or.

JASON GREENBLATT: So, the Palestinian people themselves, like all societies, are divided. They’re not monolithic. But the Hamas leadership and the Palestinian Authority are basically bitter enemies. They don’t get along at all. Hamas thinks President Abbas is too weak. President Abbas does think that Hamas are basically terrorists, and they don’t agree, and they don’t see eye to eye at all. There are some who say that if there were a fair and free election in, let’s use the term West in the West Bank and the Palestinian areas of the West Bank that Hamas would actually win. I’m not sure if that’s accurate or not, but that is that there is definitely polling for that. And there are some who say that in Gaza there’s the sick and tired of Hamas. They would take anybody to rule other than Hamas. But they’re too I don’t know how real how real these numbers are.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Okay. So, you were now in the White House, and you were charged with coming up with some type of plan that diplomats, career diplomats and career State Department people have not been able to even come close for the past 50 or so years. Talking about a two-state solution, talking about all the tried-and-true things that were supposed to work or paid lip service. And you come in and you say, What?

JASON GREENBLATT: So, what we did, and this is really Jared under Jared’s lead, is we wanted to come up with a peace plan that was actually realistic. We looked at all the past efforts and look, they were, I’m sure, noble efforts and sincere efforts, but in the end, they all failed. And we thought to ourselves, why are we still trying to do that? First of all, the two-state solution, that phrase we quickly understood, means different things to different people. The notion let’s take the most extreme version of the two-state solution, the notion that the Palestinians would get a fully contiguous state, which would of course include ripping up or eliminating the Jewish communities, what some call settlements, what I prefer to call towns, cities and communities. The notion of ripping them out of Judea and Samaria, an area, by the way, that’s the heartland of Jewish history, and basically saying that this area will become Jewish free. I don’t think that’s in the cards. Certainly, it’s a ridiculous ask, but I don’t think it would ever happen even though it did happen in Gaza, because it’s a much smaller area. That’s number one. Secondly, a lot of people get upset at the peace plan that we had proposed because they argue that it was not a fully sovereign state of Palestine, meaning they wanted the Palestinians to have a fully sovereign state with Israel having absolutely no security oversight. There are two that’s a ridiculous ask. I mean, if anything, we have the proof that there are bad elements among the Palestinian society. Hamas is only one of them, and they would do anything to attack Israel and try to destroy it. Why should Israel not learn in the lessons of the past? Why should they not control security? Our view was very much if the Palestinian leaders could control security, keep the Palestinians safe within their borders, make sure that there were no attacks going into Israel from the Palestinian borders, then there’s no problem. But if they can’t and, you know, time would tell, we would make sure that Israel not only had the right to go in, but also that the U.N. and no country should be able to condemn Israel because why should be condemned? They’re doing something to try to finally achieve peace. But if they can’t achieve peace, of course, they should have the right to defend themselves. So those are examples of a peace plan that we thought was fair and appropriate, but that from early on we understood from so many other diplomats would never fly. But I think that those diplomats who argue that Israel should just withdraw from territory and close their eyes and hope that peace would break out are unrealistic. So.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, for years, the mantra was that there cannot be any peace in the Middle East until the problem of the Palestinians is settled and either have their own state or what other solutions came up with. It didn’t matter if the Palestinian question is still in flux, there could be no peace in the Middle East. Was that more or less accurate?

JASON GREENBLATT: It is. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said that pretty recently, pretty much around the time that we went into the White House, maybe just before. I can’t remember the timing, but there were two mantras that I think we completely blew out of the water. One is that exactly what you say? And the second one is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core conflict of the region. As long as that is alive, there will be no peace in the Middle East or maybe even elsewhere. And, you know, that, too, was something every time I went into the region, and I had so many conversations with leadership in the region and ordinary people as well. And any time somebody would pull that out of their hat and say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core conflict, then we can’t have peace without it. I challenge that. And the minute I challenged them and pointed out that it doesn’t solve the problem in Syria, in the terrible, brutal civil war and Yemen, the Houthi terrorists that are attacking the UAE and Saudi and elsewhere, and Lebanon and ISIS. And, you know, you go on and on and then they basically fold, and they say, you’re right. And then when you ask them, what do you say that they really don’t have an answer? So, a lot of what we did, and part of my job very much was myth busting, meaning going back into the region, listening, of course, and listening to the different arguments, but then challenging when the arguments made no sense. And it was the rare example, I can’t even think of one when one of those myths ended up, you know, not being able to be busted.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think even in our own State Department, I think you don’t recall exactly. But in the book, you mentioned that when you ask the State Department, an official in the State Department or something dealing with Jerusalem and East Jerusalem and in U.S., could you show me the documentation? Why don’t you tell that?

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah. Say it’s actually the perfect example. So, a lot of the things we did around Jerusalem after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital, which, you know, like other candidate presidential candidates, he made the promise, but he’s really the only one who followed through. We would always get criticism that we were, Judaizing Jerusalem, that there was no Jewish history in Jerusalem. And that’s even and I David Friedman and I were doing things to try to Judy has Jerusalem. So, one day I just was particularly surprised that the attacks against us in terms of Jerusalem and I asked national security. Council person who worked for me and I said, you know, I’ve been here now. I don’t remember the timing, maybe about two years, and I’ve never seen a single paper that said that East Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians. There are two variations of that phrase. There is East Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state, which, by the way, includes the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. You know, the Temple Mount being the holiest place to Jews. They want all of East Jerusalem or the other variation, which is not really accepted by the Palestinians. But some do say it is a capital in East Jerusalem, which potentially is far more palatable, but still problematic depending on how you define that. So, I said to my colleague, where does this come from, by the way, because I haven’t seen a single paper that said. So, he was sort of squirming in a seat, blushing a little bit. And he said, you know what, I’ll get back to you. And this is a guy who knows the fire well, has been working on it for years, knows every you know, every and every I that’s dotted, every team that’s crossed. So, he said he’d get back to me. He didn’t get back to me the next day or the day after. And I finally called him, and I said, “Can you come down?” And he came to my offices. So, what’s the source? And he sheepishly looks at me and he says, Well, there’s actually no source. It’s just that we’ve been saying it so long that it’s. That it’s true, that it’s gospel. I thought I was kidding. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. I said, really? I said, Yeah, that’s it’s just because that’s what people say. So that’s like the deal now. I said, I’ll tell you what, I want to go to the U.N. Security Council. But now Nikki Haley, who was an amazing ambassador to the U.N., she had already left. There was no one filling her role yet. So, I had the opportunity to make speeches in front of the Security Council, said, I want to tell the Security Council that for every time they say that they’re just promoting a false narrative. We had a discussion about it and asked them to come up with the right kind of speech to send the message to, as you can imagine, many drafts, because they weren’t exactly on board with me. I mean, they understood the point. They didn’t disagree with the point. And they certainly couldn’t come up with a logical argument against the point. And after a lot of negotiation, we came up with what I thought was quite a strong speech, and I’m pleased that they agreed to let me say it. And the language surrounding East Jerusalem was something along the lines of an aspiration is not a right meaning. Just because the Palestinians aspire to have either a capital in East Jerusalem or East Jerusalem as the capital doesn’t mean they have the right to do it. You can imagine how that went over at the Security Council.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And quite like that. But it’s so amazing. You know, you think of in terms of diplomacy that things are researched and in rationale, logic dictate. But as you point out and some of the examples you point out here in the book and especially this one a lot of is just human bias and shortcuts that we take that it’s pretty easy to repeat a story than to be accurate.

JASON GREENBLATT: No, sadly, that’s absolutely true. People would take their notes that were prepared by the prior administration or in other countries, just by seasoned diplomats. They say the same thing. You know, another one of those myths is the settlements. Again, I don’t like that term because it’s become negative. I understand the history of the term, but I think we should start calling them what they are, which are cities, towns and communities. That those are the reason that there is no peace with the Palestinians. It’s just not true. The people say it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it from every European country, friend or ally, you name it. That is one of their go-to lines. If only the settlements didn’t exist, there would be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which is absolutely false.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And you know what I found interesting? Really interesting, really amazing. And I and I and I know something about the Middle East following it and from really from childhood. This was something that we learned. What I find so, so amazing in your book and this the first time I’ve ever seen it was you list out how big. And I want to quote here, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Jewish population in the 128 West Bank settlements, Judea and Samaria is approximately 475,000 people, which is a mere fraction of Israel’s overall population of 9.3 million. The Palestinian population in the same area, by contrast, is approximately 3 million. And then you add a page later. We’re talking about 150 square miles in which in total we’re talking about 220, 262 square mile total. So, we’re talking about a whole area that has 128 cities, towns among 475,000 Israelis, against 3 million Palestinians in an area which is about 7% of Israel’s total size. So, we’re talking about a small, small, small, small area. And this is the big issue.

JASON GREENBLATT: Absolutely. Because it’s a straw man. It’s very easy for them to use that as an excuse. And then the follow up argument to that excuse is that the Palestinian state, if one were to ever be created, would be like Swiss cheese, because there are so many so-called settlements scattered throughout the West Bank area. No country should ever have that kind of Swiss cheese. And you know what? My answer to that is Manhattan. I come from New Jersey in Manhattan, where I used to go from New Jersey to Manhattan every day over bridge or under a tunnel. People go from Manhattan to Brooklyn over a bridge under a tunnel. And that’s what we design. And, you know, the notion that a settlement cuts off land, you know, how many areas of countries are cut off like that and they have to be traveled via bridges or tunnels. I’m not even talking about, let’s say, Hawaii and Alaska. Right. I’m talking about even in the continental United States. It’s a convenient excuse. It sounds correct to the ear, to the ear on the surface. But when you dig deeper and you push back, you realize it’s actually a full sergeant.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And by the way, just to your point, Brooklyn was his own city, was its only had its own I think it was the 1890s or, so it was before it was all incorporated to New York City, the five boroughs, which was its own place. And they and they were joined together in this. It’s just it’s just fascinating how humans, as human beings, we love to take shortcuts because we don’t like to deep think, and we continue to perpetuate the easy answers instead of being confronted with the facts.

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah. And look, to take it a step further, I don’t even know what the analogy is with Swiss cheese, but there are two pieces of cheese, right? There’s the Palestinian area in the West Bank and there’s a Palestinian area in Gaza. Those were never going to be connected other than potentially through a bridge or a tunnel or something or a roadway or something like that. It’s not as if those would ever be connected. So there to anytime you explain to somebody, the two biggest parts of the Swiss cheese are never going to be connected anyway. Again, their fault. It’s really a question of challenging, letting people think deeply and any intellectually honest person will realize the just, you know, the mistruths of the argument, the disinformation that they’re spreading. Otherwise, if they aren’t intellectually honest, they’ll keep saying the same thing over and over again, like John Kerry did with the no peace will ever happen between Israel and its Arab neighbors until the Palestinian issue is resolved.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, and he still probably still believes it, you know, and it took it took a while for the Biden White House to even use the term the Abraham Accords, the way they were using some other term. I forgot what you wrote in.

JASON GREENBLATT: The book or normalization agreements. It’s actually, you know, for your listeners, if they want to get a good laugh, I don’t know exactly where it is on YouTube. But if you find there’s a great scene with Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, being challenged by one of the press at a press conference where this journalist was saying, why don’t you use the term? And for a good minute or two, he is squirming up at the podium, doing everything he possibly can not to use the term Abraham Accords and insisting the normalization agreements. And finally, it just you know, the journalist was so good, he kind of backed them into a corner and said something like, of course, the Abraham Accords, but I’m going to call them what they really are doing, which is a normalization of agreements. They took great pains to avoid using the term. And, you know, I think we all know the answer as to why you don’t want to give President Trump the credit for creating these historic accords. Right.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, you guys come in there with a fresh look and also, you’re coming in there with the hard questions. The questions, I should say. The hard questions, the easy questions, the questions that people never wanted to answer. Right. By using any type of research or just thinking through. It was always the snap jaw kind of thing. You come; you level the playing field. You said, this is not it. Now, the big stumbling block that we’ve always been told is that you cannot have any peace among any of the Arab nations because in solidarity, they’re basically going to hold out for the Palestinian brother. That was the thing. Egypt went to war for the Palestinians during the Yom Kippur War, the 67 war. It was all for the Palestinians. Okay, you guys come in and say we’re going to try a different tact. What’s that act?

JASON GREENBLATT: So first of all, we listened. We understood that each of these countries in the region have new problems. You know, yes, they support the Palestinian people. It’s true. You don’t really support they certainly don’t support Hamas. So, they don’t really support President Abbas. I think many of them are frustrated by Hamas. So just because they support the Palestinian people doesn’t mean they support the leadership. Each of these countries has their own new visions, right? They’re all trying to modernize their societies, modernize their economies, wean themselves of oil. They all face a tremendous threat from the Iranian regime. And the more we listen to them, the more we realize that while they cared about the Palestinian people, they also had their own national interests to protect both security and otherwise. And we just kept pushing and pushing and making them understand or helping them to understand that Israel could be part of their solution, not the problem.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, you didn’t come in there with any. You didn’t come in there with the Abraham Accords, which we’ll discuss in just a moment of exactly what it is you were. It really evolved from your listening and intellectual honesty and said, let me hear what the claim is, what the problems are, and let’s solve the problem.

JASON GREENBLATT: Correct. I mean, there were certainly people who, when we started, were telling us that the time was right to make peace between Israel and the Arab countries. It didn’t start out that way. Meaning we certainly had those discussions early on. But early on, it wasn’t as if you were saying, where do I sign? Right. They were consistent in their views. And it took several years of countless hours of conversations to get to that point. But what we did do was make clear that the U.S. was not going to abandon Israel, that we were going to actually double down on our efforts to solidify that relationship. We weren’t going to pretend that the Palestinian leadership wasn’t a problem. We were just going to try very hard to open everybody’s eyes and put forth a plan for the Palestinians that we think would be tremendous for that. We really wanted the Palestinians to have the same kind of life as Israel, but to do that, to have to make some hard compromises. Israel, by the way, also have to make hard compromises. And we also made clear that unless we were solving Gaza, there was no solution. I mean, why would Israel make the hard compromises only to find out it still had a hostile entity on its border between Israel and Egypt. And we also said that in order for this to work, Israel should be able to make peace with as many of its Arab neighbors as possible. We understood it wasn’t going to make peace with Syria or Lebanon or some of the others, but we felt that in order for this to work for Israel, it would seem that Israel should be able to make peace with some of its Arab neighbors, and over time, it eventually evolved into the Abraham Accords. Had the Palestinians actually engaged in good faith with the peace and prosperity plan that President Trump released in January 2020? Things may have been different, but not only did they not engage in good faith, they may like many times before they basically abandoned the peace process before it even started.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: They remember they walked away, and they said, we’re not you know, we reject it. No one knew what it was. It was even they just walked away.

JASON GREENBLATT: I think that they rejected something that everyone read. Their prime minister was saying, I hope the peace plan is born dead. I mean, what kind of leader is that? If you don’t like the peace plan, you have in fact, sit down. Object. Object to every page. That’s okay, too. But to object to something you’ve never read or seen. I think that shows the credibility of that leadership.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And just for our listeners to just get just get more context of this. Israel is a thriving democracy in a sea of really bad neighbors with very little natural resources. Yet in terms of technology, in terms of GDP per capita, in terms of amazing export, in terms of creation, innovation, entrepreneurship, it is it just goes through the stratosphere. I think they’re the second largest number of a country that’s on the. That’s on the Nasdaq. I think that should try. Well, I don’t think China’s number one anymore. But as a Nasdaq, I think there are more Israeli companies than any other country. Was that close or second or third or something?

JASON GREENBLATT: I’m not sure of the statistic, but they are thriving and popping and just it’s amazing. You know, you can’t walk down the street without walking into tons of entrepreneurs starting new startups every day.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, I know what it’s silicon Wadi. It’s called even, you know, after Silicon Valley, it’s silicon Wadi. And almost every major technology company in the world has a presence in that area there virtually. You can go there and see Microsoft, Intel, Google, Facebook or Meta now, but it’s just absolutely amazing. It always looked to me if I was a leader of any of these Arab nations, I just want to jump on the bandwagon. You know, there was so much money going into Israel and leaving Israel in terms of brilliant ideas, technological innovations. And this is not stuff that requires hard resources. This is brainpower. So, anyone could do with a with an Internet connection, you know, coding it. And I always thought it would be brilliant. I’m sure there’s someone out there doing this. Ready, is Israel a Jewish state? Many of the I should say many a good proportion of the population are Sabbath observers. They observe the Sabbath. And here you have a population right next door, literally a few miles away that are young people, intelligent people, the Palestinians who could fill that gap when most of these people are off and they could have a programing economy going 24 seven. You know, it just it just never made any sense. If you’re any type of leader who care about your people, why aren’t you joining and linking up with Israel’s amazing, fast-growing GDP?

JASON GREENBLATT: Well, you hit a very important nail on the head, which is because the Palestinian leadership doesn’t care. So, one of my first trips to Israel, I was with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he was extolling the virtues of the sale of Mobileye immobilized then and so. Sold for just a fortune of money. Right. That afternoon I ended up in the Palestinian areas, and I met a bunch of young Palestinian entrepreneurs. It was very fun and interesting.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Before letting me just from there, Jason, that was the largest acquisition by Intel ever. Intel bought Mobileye. So small, Israel had a technology that Intel wanted. And this is Intel, a major, you know, one of the one of the capstone companies in technology, one of the huge one. And they went to Israel to purchase a company. Just think of the absurd that sounds.

JASON GREENBLATT: Yep. So, one of these young Palestinians came up to me and he said, Jason, help us create our own mobilize. And that message really stuck with me. So, I came back to the White House and found a U.S. tech company that was going to sponsor a TED type of conference, maybe not an actual TED conference, but one where we could bring young Palestinian entrepreneurs together with Israelis who know what they’re doing because they have years of experience with startups. I tried that this part wasn’t going to happen, but I also tried to get some Gulf countries to come in to become investors. But this was in 2017. Pretty early on in 2017, they weren’t able to even conceive of that notion. But I was able to get the Israelis on board. But you know what? The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah said? They said no. Why? Because they’re not interested in helping the economy. They’re not interested in really helping the people. They’re interested in getting the demands that they’re demanding, which is all of East Jerusalem, for Israel to go back to what are called wrongly called 67 borders. Those were just armistice lines. You know, they pretend as if those were borders of a Palestinian state that once existed. They aren’t. And after a lot a lot of negotiation. You know what I got? Okay, Jason, we’ll give you 10 to 20 Palestinians in a closed room. No press to make this happen. So, what good is that? I mean, first of all, I would lose my corporate sponsor. Second of all, how am I really helping with that kind of event? They don’t want to improve Palestinian lives. They have no interest in it. For those of your listeners who don’t know, for example, Jared created this amazing economic conference in Bahrain where we released the economic portion of the peace plan before the political portion. The Palestinian leadership boycotted the conference, even though it meant tremendous things to be able to, you know, for the Palestinian people. There were some Palestinians who came anyway. They were very courageous. Some of them got arrested when they returned back home. They’re just not interested in improving lives.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, the Abraham Accords does an end run. Instead of going through the Palestinian, instead of trying to even acquiesce or any type of arrangement the Palestinian demands, you folks do an end run. You come up with a very novel way of going about this in getting other Arab countries to sign a peace treaty with Israel, which becomes the Abraham Accords. Could you develop that force?

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah. So, at some point the Arab countries, in particular the UAE and Bahrain, later Morocco, they recognized that giving the Palestinian leadership a veto card over there over their futures is just a mistake. They want to do it. They’re excited about doing it. If you see, since the Abraham Accords were signed, it’s a very warm peace. There’s travel back and forth. It’s investment. It needs to be a two-way street. Investment should not all pour into Israel. Investment from Israel and even other countries into those Arab countries should also happen for this to be truly successful. If people see the Arab countries simply as a cash machine for investment, that’s not really going to work for too long. It has to be a two-way street. But the Arab countries realized that they could benefit from partnering with Israel. Israel, of course, benefits from partnering with them. And this region really is on an upward trajectory like nothing I’ve ever seen.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, at the time at the White House, what date was that where the Abraham Accords were signed?

JASON GREENBLATT: It was in August. Two years ago, on this. I don’t remember the specific date coming up.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s a two-year anniversary of that. And on the balcony, there was which countries were represented on the balcony that day?

JASON GREENBLATT: Bahrain. The UAE. Obviously, Israel, America, I don’t think Sudan was part of it.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think it was later. Yeah.

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah. Okay. And it was an amazing, amazing scene.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And it was originally true, those two countries there. And why was it called the Abraham Accords? For those listeners who are questioning why Abraham Accords.

JASON GREENBLATT: So, the name Abraham was used was Abraham was the patriarch really of all three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. One of the phrases I used to use when I went to the Arab countries way before the Abraham Accords are ever really a twinkle in anybody’s eye was it was time to bring the family back together again. And that really resonated with people.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, that’s a that’s absolutely amazing. And since then, there are now five countries that have signed agreements with Israel, peace treaties with Israel.

JASON GREENBLATT: Sudan, Morocco, UAE and Bahrain. Some argue that was it. Kosovo, I think was also it’s a different situation. I think really the main driving countries are, in my view, Morocco, UAE and Bahrain. Sudan, in theory that Sudan really has its own challenges and issues. So, it’s not quite the bright spot in the Abraham Accords yet, and hopefully over time it will be. But it is very significant. Let’s remember that in Khartoum, the Arab League was the one that hosted this or where they were hosted in Sudan, where they came up with the three no’s, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel, no peace with Israel. So, it’s definitely significant that Sudan became part of the Abraham Accords. But given Sudan’s challenges, I think they have quite a way to go before they’ll see the fruits of the Abraham Accords, and I hope that happens soon.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: That just to add some context to that, that was in 1967, after the Six-Day War. Israel was asking for peace, and in Khartoum, the Arab League basically gave the three nos. So, it’s one of the ironies of history that now, what, 60, 50 something years later, there’s peace with Khartoum. So, you know, crazy things can happen. So, with our time left and by the way, you’re traveling back and forth to the Middle East now. And what I found so interesting hearing you speak as well as in your book is the relationships. And you also had your children speak at one of these everywhere. So, you speak in in April. And the warm relationships and the respect, the mutual respect that the Arab leaders and Arab people have towards you as you and you towards them.

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah. No, the relationship is real, it’s warm. And as you said, it’s also with my kids. My kids have had the opportunity to sit with some of them, you know, have had discussions with not only the prime minister of Israel, but the king of Jordan. They met others as well. And it’s because it’s genuine. Right. And if it wasn’t genuine, it would mean nothing. These leaders throughout the Middle East today see promise. They see promise for their young population. They particularly take in when they meet younger people as well. So, I’m a big, big believer because of its authenticity that this is going to go somewhere.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, no, no, look, there’s no question. And then the other end, which we didn’t discuss in the short time we have, is the candles being burnt on the other end as well. And that’s why I, in a common enemy to the whole entire Middle East, wanted to speak about that.

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah. So, there’s no question that the Iranian regime, the threat of the Iranian regime played a major role in the Abraham Accords. That plays a major role in uniting the region, even those that aren’t yet signed onto the Abraham Accords. When we started in 2017, it was clear to us that the region felt abandoned by the United States because the Obama administration had signed the Iran deal, the JCPOA, even today. Now, you know, sure, President Biden did go to the region, and he said some nice words in Israel about how Iran can never get a nuclear weapon. What does that mean? Especially when you’re negotiating with Iran? And not only are you just sort of putting a bit of a time limit on them getting nuclear weapons, but you’re also giving them a fortune of money with which to promote terrorism around the world. You know, the nuclear threat is real, incredibly serious, could be incredibly destructive. But separate from that, Iran fires missiles, you know, through its proxies at all of our allies, not just Israel. It does cause all sorts of terrorist acts to happen. We can’t lose sight of the fact that Iran is it’s an evil actor and it’s not just an evil and evil actor on a nuclear scale. It’s an evil actor. And what it wants to do to the region, it wants to destroy Israel. We should take that threat seriously, and it wants to take over large swaths of the Middle East.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: You know, I remember in 1981 when Menachem Begin, who was prime minister of Israel at the time, gave the order to bomb the nuclear reactors in Iraq. And it was an amazing, amazing mission. And they were very successful. They were successful. There was no nuclear threat from Iraq at that point. They were building a nuclear reactor and the world condemned them as well as, I believe, the United States at the time under President Reagan, as well as the United Nations, which comes as no surprise. But just how many years later? About a decade later, I think it was Cheney who was secretary of defense at the time, thanked the Israelis. And they, I think, remember, showed him a picture of the crater where it was because Desert Storm would never have happened if Iraq had a nuclear capability. Just think of that for a second. How we would have used them in the whole region would have been different.

JASON GREENBLATT: It’s so easy to hide our heads in the sand like an ostrich and pretend these problems don’t exist. But they do exist. And if we don’t confront the problems, or at least try to confront them and admit that they exist and try to do better, we’re just, you know, kicking the can down the road a little bit of time. And even with Iran, do you want to tell your kids and grandkids that you delayed Iran’s nuclear capability by two, three, eight years, but then all of a sudden, they have nuclear weapons? That’s not a way to solve a problem like that.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And they make no, they do not hide what their objective is. They as much as they try to say that it’s peaceful, I think they should stop that charade of saying it’s peaceful. And you title your book How to Stop Joe Biden from Unmaking It, How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East and How to Stop Joe Biden from making it. A few weeks ago, President Biden was in Saudi Arabia, the pariah state that he called asking for oil, saying he was never going to meet with the crown prince because he wasn’t someone who he I guess the left I don’t know what the situation was or what to call it, but he was never going to meet with him. There was no redeeming factor of Syria. And then we had to go to Saudi Arabia and ask for oil. And how could you have a brilliant pride podcast on that? You know, the podcast is The Diplomat. Highly suggest, folks. There are very few podcasts I listen to, but Jason is one of them. Simple 20 minutes. Clear Love. I put on one-and-a-half-time speed so I could hear quicker, but really great stuff. Utah Pod President Biden’s Washington Post op ed a few weeks ago. But what I found so troubling, what I found so troubling, and it is what I just don’t understand. Let me rephrase. You have. There’s only one country in the world that is talking about annihilating a member state and is totally open about it. That’s why I ran to Israel. No question about it. Everyone will agree to that. Yet we have a U.S. president continually trying to make some type of agreement with this pariah state in order to do what? What’s the endgame? Because I’m just not getting it. What is the endgame for the United States to sign a deal with Iran?

JASON GREENBLATT: So, the endgame for the politicians, not for the United States, because it’s not going to be an endgame for the politicians, is to be able to check a box to say, this is great. We probably, you know, we wrapped up this problem, but they forgot to tell the rest of the story. Two things. One, we wrapped up the problem only temporarily because in a couple of years, Iran will be free to actually create nuclear weapons. So that’s not really a wrapping at all. And the other problem is that we also gave them a fortune of money to do all sorts of other malign activity. So, I think it’s it ranges anywhere from naive and unrealistic to just misleading and bad actors. They just want to be able to say they have scored a political win or a diplomatic achievement. It sounds to start could really all it did was buy a little bit of time.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: It was just, look, I’m an average guy. I’m not a diplomat. I’m not a politician. And we’re seeing what’s happening now with Ukraine, with Putin, just with the threat of using his nuclear arsenal in a limited way. That’s keeping us from doing a lot of things to save a lot of people. And that’s keeping us at bay, meaning the United States. I just cannot even imagine I don’t want to imagine a nuclear Iran and the weight they will throw around this world in getting what they want when they want it. And being a superpower doesn’t mean anything at that point because they are the superpower.

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And you know, what’s interesting is, of course, we’re not even negotiating directly with Iran because they won’t negotiate with us. So, we’re negotiating through the mouths of Europeans. Europe has a totally different interest in us. So, they want to do is make money from Iran. They need Iran’s oil and cheaper prices. There’s almost no overlap between Europe’s interests and the United States interests. And Europe is not, you know, and they’re on the menu for Iran eventually, but they’re not high up on the menu. And now what’s happening is you have Iran supplying drones for Russia to Russia for Russia to use in Ukraine. So, Iran is essentially causing trouble for the Europeans in their own backyard. And it’ll be really interesting to see if the Europeans are actually smart enough to recognize that they were barking up the wrong tree.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I don’t think they will, especially with their gas prices and their electric bills going through the roof, because as was pointed out, it was under the Trump administration that they’re beholden to Moscow for their energy and they left. I remember you do go on YouTube and watch President Trump talk about it. And the German diplomats were laughing at him saying you’re going to be paying enormous amounts of money for electricity in their control. You know, it’s all hogwash. And I think it was just recently they cut off a gas, right? I think there was the last couple of days or so Russia to two parts of the of Germany or the EU. I’m not sure where was I saw it the other day in the Wall Street Journal. So, they’re going to kick up a lot of trouble for the rest of Europe. And what Europe keeps going back to this. Well. Could you explain that?

JASON GREENBLATT: Similar to your other question. I think part of it is naive. Part of it is because, you know, it’s the easy answer, right? If they could just sign a deal and get their energy prices back to where they need to be and make sure that they have adequate supplies of energy, then everybody can rest easy. But that’s just silly because they’re resting easy for a night, a month, a year, whatever it is. Long term, it’s a terrible, terrible strategy.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: You know, there’s no way to appease bullies. And your history has shown us time and time again. And, you know, if it wasn’t for Churchill, England would have had peace with the Nazis. You know what? It’s what you want to believe with, without, without any sense of reality or. I don’t know. I guess it’s just something that that it’s easier to just, you know. You know, I try to think that through logically. How does this make sense? What’s the end game? And it’s so troubling that you can’t think of an endgame because there isn’t any. It’s just it has to be as silly as checking a box.

JASON GREENBLATT: Yeah, it’s human nature. But human nature doesn’t achieve peace. It doesn’t achieve stability. You need tough, strong leaders who are willing to recognize that there are hard problems, are willing to fight against those hard problems, and also recognize that some hard problems can be solved. But, you know, just taking it on the chin doesn’t keep people safe.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. Jason, I’ll give you the last word here. My last question to you and we’re going to be done here, Israel and Saudi Arabia, how do you see that going?

JASON GREENBLATT: Slowly but surely. I think peace or normalization, whether through the umbrella of the Abraham Accords or something else, is inevitable. I think Saudi Arabia has come a long way. I think they deserve tremendous credit. For a couple of weeks ago, maybe it was two weeks ago, they opened up the airspace to everyone, which of course includes Israel. It’s true that Israel was flying over Saudi Arabia to go to the UAE and Bahrain, and I think Saudi should get credit from that for the Abraham Accords because it was through their efforts that that happened. But now Israel could fly over anywhere once, which has saved the airlines a ton of money, a ton of time for the passengers as well. And slowly but surely, I think Saudi Arabia will come around. But I think rather than to focus on when are they signing the Abraham Accords, because I don’t see that happening in the immediate future unless something dramatic changes. I think we should encourage it and say every baby step of the way is positive action. And I think, you know, I admire it. I respect it. I think Saudi Arabia was courageous when they did that. And I’m looking forward to seeing continued positive change.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. Wow. Amazing what three real estate guys can do, huh? What diplomats can figure out. You guys solved in no time. Amazing folks. The name of the book is In the Path of Abraham How Donald Trump Made Peace in the Middle East and How to Stop Joe Biden from Unmake and Making It. By Jason De Greenblatt. Outstanding. Very, very quick read really well worth it. And what Jason does here in such a really brilliant way in a simple way is gives you the context gives you the context of the conflict. Where it comes dispels a lot of the myths that are being talked about as if they were factual and they’re not. And there’s no basis in some of these facts and more importantly, how there’s a way out and how there’s a way to peace. And already we have something that I didn’t think, or I remember when Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979. I remember my grandfather watching that. It was standing there, and he started to cry. It was like so emotional that Egypt was the leader of the of the Arab world signing it. It was it was unimaginable. It was something that we can and now from then we had Jordan and now we have the Abraham Accords and all the power to you, Jason, God bless. Continue doing great work.

JASON GREENBLATT: Thank you. Thank you. It was a privilege and an honor and thank you so much for having me on the show. Was great.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: It. My pleasure. Thanks so much, Jason.

 

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