THE SPINE MARCH 14, 2010
On the front page of the Sunday Boston Globe “Ideas” section, there’s a photograph of East Belfast—or, rather, of a concrete demarcation “that separates the Protestant community from the Catholic residents on the other side of the wall.” It is called the “Peace Line,” and maybe it’s what George Mitchell, who negotiated the settlement that ended “the Troubles,” thinks of as peace.
Mitchell was Bill Clinton’s “special envoy” to those troubles, and that is why Barack Obama made him his personal emissary to Israel and the Palestinians. And, although the president will celebrate the Good Friday Agreement with visiting Northern Ireland politicians on St. Patrick’s Day later this week in Washington, Kevin Cullen—who covered the conflict in the Globe for more than 20 years—today observes, in a long article for the same paper, that “[w]hile the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland have shown a willingness to not kill each other, they have been less enthusiastic about the prospect of actually living with each other.” Cullen provides many dispiriting details. Alas.
Look, Mitchell seems disposed, by dint of character, to favor one side in a dispute rather than be fair, as arbitrators are supposed to be. This certainly was demonstrated in the baseball steroid investigation. His competence is also in question. One of the public men who went from the political trough to sup at the corporate board food line, he was designated chairman of Disney in 2004. He served barely two years, after which Disney breathed a sigh of relief.
George Mitchell will do anything to get out of a tight spot, including downgrading the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to “proximity talks,” where he’d be running from Jerusalem to Ramallah and back, with the parties not even facing each other as they consider borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security, settlements, water, etc. For Mitchell, anything goes, just as long as he’s in the spotlight.