Daniel Levy writes:
On hearing the announcement of Senator George Mitchell’s resignation as special envoy for Middle East peace, I skype-messaged the news to a friend in Israel known for her biting sarcasm. Her response was quick in coming and did not disappoint: “Mitchell is still the envoy, who knew?”
There’s been quite a lot happening in the Middle East recently, and the Israeli-Palestinian equation has not been left untouched. Yet the special envoy for Middle East peace has not been to the Middle East since mid-December.
Sen. Mitchell was prone to remind audiences that in his last stint as a peace envoy, working on Northern Ireland, he had “700 days of failure and one day of success.” Resignation day marked Sen. Mitchell’s 842nd day on the Middle East peace beat, but this time around there were no “days of success.” Mitchell’s original appointment came on Obama’s second full day of office and was greeted in certain quarters with some enthusiasm and hope (including by this writer). In 2001, working with a strong back-office, he had produced the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee Report, noteworthy for its depth and sophistication of analysis. It is hard not to conclude that this time around, Sen. Mitchell has disappointed.
Not all of the blame belongs at Mitchell’s door, of course. Throwing an envoy at a problem, even one with a distinguished record, is no substitute for a smart, strategic policy. Apparently the first misstep of the Obama administration on Mideast peace was its failure to step back and conduct a thorough review of what had already been tried, why things were so stuck, and to look at the structural flaws in the peace process they had inherited.