Obama To Name George Mitchell As Mideast Envoy
by Charles Lemos, Wed Jan 21, 2009 at 05:45:14 PM EST
"Israel has a state, but its people live in unbearable anxiety, so security for the people is an overriding objective. The Palestinians don't have a state and they want one, an independent, economically viable and geographically integral state; that is their overriding objective. I believe that neither can attain its objective by denying to the other side its objectives. Israelis are not likely to have sustainable security if the Palestinians don't have a state, and Palestinians will never achieve a state until the people of Israel have some security." - George Mitchell, December 2008
The New York Times is reporting that President Obama will name former Maine Senator and Majority Leader George Mitchell as US Special Envoy to the Middle East. It's a smart choice for the former Senator is one who firmly believes that "there is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended." Beyond his crucial role as US Special Envoy on Northern Ireland for President Clinton, Senator Mitchell has ties to the region, is intimately aware of the issues and most importantly is seen by most parties as a studious and impartial negotiator.
Senator Mitchell's mother, Mary Saad, was a textile worker who immigrated from Lebanon at age 18. He is well-acquainted with the Middle East and was the head of a committee established soon after the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, to determine the causes of the violence and ways to end it. The recommendations of the Mitchell Report were accepted by leaders on both sides.
The conclusions of that Mitchell Report later formed the basis for the road map for Middle East peace, giving Israeli officials reason to believe Wednesday that Obama would not forge any brand new policy for regional diplomacy, but would fall back on existing paradigms. In fact, it is precisely Mitchell's involvement in that report that has some Israeli officials concerned that Jerusalem will soon find itself at odds with the US once again over the settlement issue. The Mitchell Report called for an immediate cessation of violence and a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian Authority security cooperation, and a series of "confidence-building measures" to follow the cease-fire. The two key measures were that the PA had to "make clear through concrete action to Palestinians and Israelis alike that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable and that the PA will make a 100-percent effort to prevent terrorist operations and to punish perpetrators"; and that Israel had to "freeze all settlement activity, including the 'natural growth' of existing settlements." One government official said Mitchell's position on zero settlement construction, together with new National Security Adviser James Jones's previous articulation of frustration at Israel's inability to dismantle outposts, would likely put Israel and the new administration on a collision course.
It was also widely reported today that President Obama made his first calls to foreign leaders and perhaps symbolically his first went to President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. According to the Times of London, the President also spoke to President Mubarak of Egypt, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, and King Abdullah of Jordan.
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said that the talks with Middle East leaders underlined a "commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term". He added: "In the aftermath of the Gaza conflict, he emphasised his determination to work to help consolidate the ceasefire by establishing an effective anti-smuggling regime to prevent Hamas from rearming, and facilitating, in partnership with the Palestinian Authority, a major reconstruction effort."
Fair enough but let's also realize that the next move is that of Israeli electorate. Much, perhaps the chance for a fair and lasting peace, hinges on the outcome of Israel's mid-February rendezvous with destiny.