“Senator Mitchell will … work to support the objectives that the President and I believe are critical and pressing in Gaza, to develop a program for humanitarian aid and eventual reconstruction,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on January 22, 2009, the day George Mitchell was named Special Envoy for Middle East Peace.
Since then a stream of political leaders have visited Gaza including: Senator John Kerry, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, US Congress members Brian Baird and Keith Ellison, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton, the Quartet’s Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the Arab League Amer Mousa, and a European Parliamentary Delegation comprised of 55 MEPs and MPs.
So far, the closest Mitchell has come to Gaza is to visit the Kerem Shalom crossing where he participated in an Israeli PR stunt at the end of June.
When he left the Senate, Mitchell said he hoped to become baseball commissioner — he’d turned down an offer from President Clinton to become a Supreme Court justice. He went on to become Chairman of the Walt Disney Company.
After a year and a half as so-called Middle East peace envoy, Mitchell has accomplished less than nothing. He should do himself and the region a favor: salvage a bit of dignity and quit.
This weekend, Chris Patten, the British Conservative politician and former European Commissioner, became the latest high profile figure to do what George Mitchell can’t bring himself to do: visit Gaza.
On a visit to Gaza over the weekend, former EU commissioner, Chris Patten, has called for an end to the blockade of the Strip and for a reassessment of the ‘ridiculous’ policy of isolating Hamas.
At a press conference in the territory on Monday, he called for channels of dialogue with Hamas to be re-opened and stated that the siege of Gaza did not result in a moderate position but in an increase of tensions.
Patten called for the necessity of ending the illegal Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and pressed hard for an end the siege of the Gaza Strip, and the application of UN Resolution 1860. His visit coincides with the second visit of the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Affairs in the European Union, Catherine Ashton, to Gaza who also called on Israel not just to allow more goods into the sector but to fully open Gaza’s borders.
Patten said that as the biggest supporter of the Palestinian people and Israel’s largest economic partner, the EU should play a greater role in the Middle East.
He stated that many of the health problems suffered by residents of the sector were caused by the embargo, which prohibits the entry of medical supplies and prevents patients with certain conditions from travelling to receive medical treatment. Patten visited the director of operations for UNRWA in Gaza, John Ging, as well as several medical sector projects and was briefed on health conditions in the sector.
This is Patten’s third visit to Gaza. [Middle East Monitor]