Just in time for the holidays, President-elect Donald Trump is busying filling out some of the remaining posts in his administration. On Friday, he announced that Jason Greenblatt will be his "special representative for international negotiations." But who is Jason Greenblatt, and what exactly does a representative for international negotiations do? It's not as straightforward as it sounds. Greenblatt has worked with Trump as the executive vice president and chief legal officer for all of the president-elect's businesses for the past two decades. The two men are obviously close. Greenblatt is a lawyer by trade and has no foreign policy experience, which is a little odd for someone taking over the international negotiations role.
Usually, The Wall Street Journal reported, the job is given to career diplomats and policy "wonks," since the gig entails untangling some of the most intricate foreign policy webs facing the United States.
The Trump transition team said in a statement that Greenblatt will primarily work on diplomatic relations with Cuba, trade agreements, and the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Greenblatt said in the statement, "My philosophy, in both business and in life, is that bringing people together and working to unite, rather than to divide, is the strongest path to success. I truly believe that this approach is one that can yield results for the United States in matters all over the world."
The appointment of Greenblatt can also be seen as another move on Trump's part to separate from the Obama administration on yet another issue. On Friday, the United States abstained from a UN Security Council vote to urge Israel to stop building settlements. Normally, the United States tends to veto any resolution that Israel objects to, but this time the country remained neutral since the plan was too "narrowly" focused on the settlements, according to CNN. United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power did say that the resolution was based on "facts on the ground" and that settlement growth "has gotten so much worse that it is threatening the two-state solution."
Trump tweeted on Friday that he believed the resolution should have been vetoed. He wrote in a longer Facebook message, “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations." The president-elect added, "This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”
His pick for special foreign negotiations would likely agree with him.
Greenblatt was one of Trump's chief advisors on Israel during the campaign, being an Orthodox Jew who's spent time in Israel. His appointment might be troubling to anyone who has actually made a career of international relations, and especially anyone who's worked on the Israel-Palestine peace process. The appointment of the lawyer further illustrate's Trump's habit of veering towards tokenism, as The Atlantic pointed out when the campaign met with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last spring and called in Greenblatt to help him answer questions concerning the Jewish community.
Trump seems to believe that just because someone is Jewish and knows about business deals that they would be able to work out one of the most complicated foreign issues the United States is involved in. Much like he recommended his daughter, Ivanka Trump, for handling "women's issues" or how he met with former football player Ray Lewis to discuss racial ones.
For sure, Greenblatt, Ivanka, and Lewis have valid opinions on those respective issues, but there are also likely Jewish policy wonks, feminist lobbyists, and African American politicians who have also dedicated their careers to policy and possibly have more experience to offer. The appointment of his business attorney to such a high position in international negotiations at least shows that Trump trusts those closest to him to rise to the occasion.
For the well being of American foreign relations, let's hope that Greenblatt can do so.