Although not yet official, several news outlets are reporting that Obama will choose George Mitchell as his Mideast envoy. Mitchell is a man with experience in negotiations, having worked on peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. He also is familiar with the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. He issued a report in 2001 recommending a freeze on settlements, and a Palestinian crackdown on terrorist activities.
Apparently, The ADL’s Abe Foxman thinks Mitchell is too ‘fair’ and ‘even-handed’ to serve as Middle East envoy. Pretty interesting statement from Foxman. I’ll let it speak for itself.
In my opinion, Mitchell is an important choice because the Bush Administration seriously damaged the Arab world’s faith in America as a fair mediator in peace negotiations. Mitchell is half-Lebanese, which is different from having all American Jews, which has often been the case when America sends negotiators. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that, but it probably does not serve to reassure the Arab parties of America’s goodwill.
Apparently Dennis Ross may be kept in some capacity in the Middle East, and that’s fine, considering his extensive experience, but I think it is wise not to put him directly in charge of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
As always, we just have to wait and see what will happen, but I think it is a positive first step from the Obama Administration.