George Mitchell resigned as Obama administration special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. It’s not exactly a day to “give thanks for what the Lord hath made,” to upend Scripture a bit. More like the proverbial chickens of an off-kilter U.S. policy coming home too roost.
Increasingly over the past few months and even moreso in the past few weeks, the Arab peoples, including the Palestinians, have taken matters into their own hands given Israeli obduracy and U.S. irrelevance.
Mitchell had to have seen the handwriting on the wall. Being an honorable man, he didn’t want to continue presiding over a sham policy. The wonder is that he remained in his position as long as he did.
Each party said nice things about the man and blamed the other for failure of his efforts. Israel’s attempt to blame the Palestinians for refusing to negotiate, while the former offered nothing over which to negotiate, was laughable.
I’d like to think (though I have no way of knowing) he lobbied for our joining the effort on behalf of Palestinian statehood which is gathering steam for the UN in September. Perhaps he couldn’t be heard within the administration. Likely, this will leave the hardcore pro-Israel figures like Dennis Ross increasingly in control of policy. That remains to be seen, though one might have reasonable fears this might be the outcome. Ross is a long-time policy infighter who often disagreed with Mitchell’s more balanced approach. When there is an institutional/policy vacuum it is people like Ross who rush to fill it.
Mitchell leaves, of course at an awkward time, just before a major Obama Middle East address and White House meeting with Netanyahu. The effect is as if to say the emperor, that is U.S. Mideast policy, has no clothes. One wonders just what Obama will say in this speech and whether the speech will be little more than a distraction from just how ineffectual our policy is and has been.
Besides the problems with a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace track, the increasing murderousness of the Assad assault on his own Syrian citizens, which has left 600 dead at the hands of brutal security forces, and which the U.S. has observed from the sidelines, leave us increasingly out of reach and out of touch.
This article first appeared in Tikun Olam