Monday, January 26, 2009

George Mitchell's Return to Middle East Diplomacy

Daniel Pipes
Thu, 22 Jan 2009
updated Sun, 25 Jan 2009

Obama's appointment of the former U.S. Senate leader as "Special Envoy for the Middle East" has met with good reviews from most concerned. Sallai Meridor, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said his government "holds Senator Mitchell in high regard and looks forward to working with him on taking the next steps towards realizing a future of peace and security for Israel and her neighbors." J Street, Israel Policy Forum, and Americans for Peace Now all lauded his appointment.

But not me. First, how can one hold in high regard someone who came out with the wretched Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee Report also known as the "Mitchell Report," of April 2001? I did an analysis of it when it appeared at "Mitchell report missed it." I called it "a great disappointment." A couple of excerpts:


it reveals the would-be peacemaker´s typical unwillingness to judge right and wrong.… Not wanting to offend, in other words, creates an illusionary balance of blame ("Fear, hate, anger, and frustration have risen on both sides," says the report) that makes it impossible to distinguish between aggressor and victim, between right and wrong.

the Mitchell report suggests that Israel "should freeze all settlement activity" to mollify the Palestinians. This is a step the Israelis never agreed to, even when negotiations were under way. To do so now rewards the Palestinians for engaging in violence, something objectionable in principle and ineffectual in practice.

the report emphasizes getting the two parties back to the negotiating table, as though this were an end in itself. It seems oblivious to the important fact that negotiations over the past eight years did not bring the parties closer to a settlement but, to the contrary, exacerbated differences and had a role in the outbreak of violence.

I found that Mitchell and his committee were "myopically unaware of the real issue at hand, which is not violence, or Jewish settlements, or Jerusalem. It is, rather, the enduring Arab reluctance to accept the existence of a sovereign Jewish state." I suggested that, the real solution "lies not in getting the parties back as fast as possible to diplomacy, but in instilling in the Palestinians an awareness of the futility of their use of violence against the Jewish state."

Second, how can one take seriously yet another diplomatic initiative? Here is a partial listing of diplomatic initiatives undertaken since 2001:

* George W. Bush's June 2002 speech.
* The Geneva Accords.
* The Quartet.
* The Roadmap.
* The Mitchell Report
* The Tenet Understandings
* The Abdullah Plan.
* The "Benchmarks" for peace.
* The Zinni mission.
* The Wolfensohn mission
* The Ward mission.
* The Dayton mission.
* The Annapolis Foundation, headed by James L. Jones.
* The Fraser mission.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Could someone explain to me how that definition does not apply to this fifteenth effort? Does anyone wish to wager on its chances for success? (January 22, 2009)

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