Greenblatt, 53, who has worked on the peace plan since late 2017 alongside Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, said he would resign after the plan is made public, which US officials have said wouldn’t happen before the Israeli legislative elections, set for later this month.
There are several things we know about Avi Berkowitz, who has served as an assistant to Kushner since January 2017, and has been a friend of his for years.
- He studied at an Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem for two years after graduating from high school, and studied at a rabbinical college in Baltimore, Maryland. Berkowitz has no reported experience in foreign policy. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2016. He reportedly met Kushner as an undergraduate student at Queens College in the early 2010s, and joined the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
- In 2017, former White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Business Insider that Berkowitz’s duties at the time were mostly administrative, with the assistant said to have helped Kushner with “daily logistics”-related issues such as getting coffee, coordinating meetings, and assisting visitors as they were toured around the White House. According to one former White House official, these duties also included holding onto Kushner’s phone while he was in meetings.
- Despite his youth and relative political inexperience, Berkowitz is said to already be one of just four people familiar with drafts of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, and tagged along with Kushner during his February 2019 trip to Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to discuss the plan.
- Along with Berkowitz, Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s special representative for Iran and a senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is also expected to play “an increased role” in the Middle East peace plan negotiations.
- Berkowitz’s promotion follows his elevation last year from ‘assistant to senior advisor’ Kushner to ‘advisor to senior advisor’ Kushner. It’s unclear what additional responsibilities or benefits the promotion may have entailed. It’s also unknown whether the peace plan's chief promotion will entail a formal new title.
- According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency analysis, Berkowitz is “cut from the same religious and ideological cloth as Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman [US Ambassador to Israel]; all four men were“raised in Orthodox Jewish homes, are all from the New York area, and all have deep pre-government ties to Israel and its religious institutions.”
- Greenblatt himself has described Berkowitz as someone “qualified to do what’s expected of him, and it will continue to be very much a team approach kind of place…He’s developed quite a good relationship with the relevant Middle East ambassadors and diplomats. He interacts with them a lot because of his role with Jared and when I’ve seen those interactions, they’ve been very positive.”
Trump’s Peace Plan
The Trump administration is expected to formally unveil its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan proposal after the legislative elections to Israel’s Knesset on 17 September. Details of the political portion of the plan formally remain a secret, but it is widely expected to jettison the two-state solution – which has been at the core of all previous negotiations in recent decades – in favour of financial incentives for the Palestinians. Kushner presented the financial portion of the plan at a conference in Bahrain earlier this year, with Palestinian negotiators boycotting the meeting. Kushner responded by calling the Palestinian side “hysterical and erratic.” In recent weeks, the Israeli government has also reportedly lobbied the Trump administration to recognise Israeli sovereignty over territories it controls in the West Bank. Palestinian officials have repeatedly criticised Israel over its settlement activities in the West Bank.