The new US-Middle East peace envoy will be a 30-year-old White House administrative assistant, President Donald Trump announced yesterday.
Avi Berkowitz, an assistant to White House senior advisor and Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, will inherit the role from Jason Greenblatt, formerly Mr Trump’s real estate lawyer, after Mr Greenblatt announced yesterday he would step down.
Mr Berkowitz, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 2016, has no foreign policy experience. He joined the Trump campaign in 2016 and has since served as Mr Kushner’s right-hand-man in the administration.
A 2017 Business Insider profile of Mr Berkowitz quoted former White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks as saying his main duties were “daily logistics like getting coffee and coordinating meetings.”
A former employer said on Twitter Mr Berkowitz was “not very impressive and needed significant hand-holding to handle even simple assignments. But Mideast peace? I’m sure he’s got this!” Another Arab states expert described him as “a glorified intern”.
The appointment “demonstrates a lack of seriousness” in the administration’s approach to the peace plan and Mr Kushner’s complete dominance over the process, former Middle East advisor to the US defence department Jasmine El-Gamal told The Telegraph. “They are not even pretending otherwise by hiring a qualified person as an envoy.”
Others have raised concerns that Mr Berkowitz, like Mr Greenblatt before him and Mr Kushner, is a Zionist Jew, which may lead to a perception of bias in any peace negotiations with Palestinian officials. Upon Mr Greenblatt’s announcement of his departure, Mr Trump thanked him for his “dedication to Israel.”
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Some analysts suspect the surprising appointment has been made so Mr Berkowitz can be easily disposed of if Mr Trump’s Middle East peace plan is not well received. The process has so far been widely criticised, in no small part because it is led by Mr Kushner, who, like his father-in-law, has a background in New York real estate rather than foreign policy.” data-reactid=”16″>Some analysts suspect the surprising appointment has been made so Mr Berkowitz can be easily disposed of if Mr Trump’s Middle East peace plan is not well received. The process has so far been widely criticised, in no small part because it is led by Mr Kushner, who, like his father-in-law, has a background in New York real estate rather than foreign policy.
Mr Kushner’s first instalment, an economic peace plan dubbed “Peace to Prosperity” launched at a conference in Bahrain in June and boycotted by Palestinian officials, was lambasted by experts. “I would give this so-called plan a C- from an undergraduate student,” said Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel, on Twitter. Israel analyst Michael Koplow called it “the Monthy Python sketch of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives.”
The next, political instalment of the plan is expected soon, shortly after Israel’s election on September 17th.