President Trump has often said that he considers a successfully-brokered peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to be “the ultimate deal.” In his pursuit of attaining that goal, Trump sent Jason Greenblatt as an envoy to the region in March to initiate talks. The president has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House separately, and Greenblatt has been an integrally important part of that process.
A former Trump Organization executive who has worked for the company since 1997, Greenblatt apparently had an impact on White House intern Tim Kocher of Columbus, Ohio, who chose the administration official to be the subject of his blog entry.
White House interns have taken on a variety of assignments this summer, from conducting research, managing incoming inquiries, attending meetings and writing memos, to bigger tasks such as staffing events. Interns’ responsibilities vary by department, but they all attend weekly events, which include an educational speaker series and small group meetings set up to teach them about different policy aspects within the Executive Office of the President.
The summertime session of the White House Internship Program under President Donald J. Trump has been chronicled by blog entries written by the interns themselves. Kocher wrote about his experiences working in the Office of the Special Representative for International Negotiations, which he said has “helped to produce some positive developments.”
Kocher points to last month’s agreement on the Red Sea-Dead Sea project as a major accomplishment.
In an effort to bring more fresh water to the arid Middle East, Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders, along with US envoy Jason Greenblatt, gathered in Israel’s famous King David Hotel to announce the signing of a breakthrough trilateral water deal, which is expected to fill the local population’s need for fresh water through a new desalination plant.
According to scientists, the Dead Sea could become little more than sludgy, salty puddle by the year 2050 if something isn’t done to save it. Due to the exploitation of water sources upstream of the Jordan River, and pumping for industrial purposes on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides, the sea level is dropping by more than 1 meter (3.2 feet) annually.
The Jordanian-Israeli pipeline project, which was approved on July 13, will stream seawater from the Gulf of Eilat (a.k.a. Gulf of Aqaba) and saltwater that will be the product of a seawater desalination plant to be built in the Aqaba region. The plan aims to ultimately pipe 325 million cubic meters of water into the Dead Sea every year, which would reduce the annual drop in the sea’s level by some 40 percent. That’s the best that can be done, according to the Geological Survey of Israel – the agency that does the scientific monitoring of the Dead Sea – because streaming more than 400 million cubic meters of water into the sea could adversely affect its characteristics.”
Studying American Politics and Policy at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, Kocher titled his blog piece, “We Hope for Peace.”
The Office of the Special Representative for International Negotiations has a vague name but a critical mission: restarting substantive discussions between the Israelis and Palestinians in an effort to bring a lasting peace to the region. Though the dispute remains intense, our office has helped to produce some positive developments. The recent agreement on the Red Sea-Dead Sea project was a major accomplishment, facilitated by Special Representative Jason Greenblatt. The agreement will have a tangible, positive impact for the local people and the region, leading to more drinking water in Gaza and the West Bank and the construction of a major water pipeline between Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan. It has been a privilege to support this significant work. Knowing that I played a small role on an issue that impacts the lives of millions of people has been both humbling and motivating.
From my vantage point as a summer intern, I’ve had the opportunity to watch and learn as Mr. Greenblatt has sought input from a wide variety of stakeholders. His genuine desire for peace has been a constant reminder of the importance of our work. Though his background lies in law, he has maintained a diplomatic and impartial outlook and seeks peace with a dogged determination. I’m confident he possesses all of the traits necessary to oversee the revival of the peace process.
I have also been impressed with his willingness to travel regularly to the region. Between working in Washington and his travel schedule, he is perpetually busy, but he always keeps his top priorities in mind. The White House is not known as any easy work environment, and even less so for a father of six. Nevertheless, he regularly makes the time to see his wife and children as much as possible. He has been an example to me of what true work-life balance looks like amidst the overbearing D.C. work culture.
Though our political climate is incredibly polarized, my time as an intern has been unique, as I have seen Republicans and Democrats unite around their shared hope for a final resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my experience, the old saying is still true: politics stops at the water’s edge. Americans of every stripe are rooting for the Administration’s success in brokering a lasting peace.
Tim Kocher is a native of Columbus, Ohio. He studied Government, with a focus on American Politics and Policy, at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia. Tim is a member of the Summer 2017 White House Internship Program in the Office of the Special Representative for International Negotiations.