Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Blog

Politico broke the news a few minutes ago that President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will be resigning his post.  Mitchell was most renowned for brokering the peace agreement that ended the bloody conflict in Northern Ireland. For brokering that agreement, Mitchell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Liberty Medal. During his acceptance of the latter, Mitchell famously said:

"I believe there’s no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. They’re created and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. No matter how ancient the conflict, no matter how hateful, no matter how hurtful, peace can prevail."

Losing George Mitchell marks a significant loss to the efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is itself a sign that things look so grim, even to an otherwise committed optimist who believes that peace is always possible. Commenting on the news of his departure, AAI President Jim Zogby said:

“Even Mitchell’s patience couldn’t wear down Israeli intransigence. This is sad: for Israeli-Palestinian peace, for George Mitchell personally, and for the U.S. Either the President tries to recoup by making a tough and determined stand as to the steps that must be taken to achieve peace, backing it up with timetables and consequences, or Mitchell’s resignation will be read as the final nail in the coffin of a failed process.”

Part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement on the resignation of Mitchell said that the State Department would miss his "steady leadership and wise counsel, and we will carry forward his commitment to pursue a comprehensive peace in the Middle East." President Obama's statement noted that Clinton has asked "the Deputy Middle East Envoy, David Hale to serve as the Acting Envoy." Click here to read the full statements of President Obama and Secretary Clinton.

The ball is now in the Obama Administration’s court, and the challenge remains more significant than ever to get something positive moving before the pessimism and despair leads to another major outbreak in violence. All eyes will now be fixated on President Obama's immediate next steps, as they will signal to all players the level of the United States’ seriousness in attempting to take decisive steps to resolve this conflict in the near future.

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Full Text of George Mitchell's Resignation Letter:

Dear Mr. President:

When I accepted your request to serve as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace my intention was to serve for two years. More than two years having passed I hereby resign, effective May 20, 2011. I trust this will provide sufficient time for an effective transition.

I strongly support your vision of comprehensive peace in the Middle East and thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your administration. It has been an honor for me to again serve our country. 

With my gratitude and best wishes.

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