THE PLANK JANUARY 22, 2009
Israel-based journalist Shmuel Rosner has just filed a piece for TNR on why George Mitchell, Obama's Middle East envoy, is the wrong person to send to the Israel-Palestine peace talks. Rosner reviews Mitchell's 2001 report to the Bush administration on the Israel-Palestine conflict to inform how Mitchell will approach the region in the coming days:
While most people will focus on Mitchell's supposed position regarding settlements (and the possibility that such position will make it hard for him not to pick a fight with the most probable next Israeli prime minister, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu), the Mitchell Report finding that seems much more problematic today is the conclusion that Palestinian violence was not planned by the Palestinian leadership (namely, Yasser Arafat). The report says that "we were provided with no persuasive evidence that the [Ariel] Sharon visit [to Temple Mount in 2000] was anything other than an internal political act; neither were we provided with persuasive evidence that the PA planned the uprising." This was, arguably, the most devastating rebuke of Israel's claims--what most Israelis believe today, and what the Bush administration eventually came to believe --that Arafat wanted, initiated, planned, and executed this terror campaign.
This was typical Mitchell. Rejecting the narrative of both sides--Mitchell did not accept Palestinians' claims that Sharon's "provocation" was the cause for violence either--in the hope that a third, "balanced" version, can be swallowed, if not enthusiastically, by the parties. There's reason to assume that in style, if not in substance, Mitchell will not change this approach and will try to find a middle ground, earning some praise and some rebuke for his actions.