With President Obama about to meet two big allies and make a major speech on the region, the timing of his special Mideast envoy’s departure couldn’t be more uncomfortable. Daniel Stone on why Mitchell is going—and what it means for Israel and Palestine.
Two days after Barack Obama’s inauguration, George Mitchell was named special envoy for Middle East peace. With the new president standing beside Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden took the podium and extolled Mitchell’s reputation and experience having brokered peace in Northern Ireland, calling him an “outstanding public servant” with “incredible capacity.” In the press, Mitchell was praised as the right man for the job at the right time.
On Friday, though, that capacity had reached its limit, and Mitchell told his bosses in the West Wing that he’d had enough. His reasons, he said, were personal—the kind of nebulous rationale that leaves ample room for interpretation. Unmentioned were the months of frustration that Mitchell had built up as direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians became more difficult and the peace process further off. Read more