RAMALLAH, May 14 (JMCC) - Foreign Policy
editor Daniel Levy weighs in on
what the resignation of US Mideast envoy George Mitchell means for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Two obvious reasons suggest themselves, with a third possibility that enters more counterintuitive territory. Sen. Mitchell is a Mr. Negotiator-type - that is his skill set and legal background. It may be that he sees no prospect for negotiations and therefore no reason to stay on. Some will no doubt claim that the recently signed Palestinian power-sharing deal, including Fatah and Hamas, scuppered the prospects for a resumption of negotiations. One would really have to not be paying attention to make such a claim. In the over two years of this administration, there have been 30 days in which Israelis and Palestinians were in negotiation mode and 813 days in which they have not been.
The PLO has reached the conclusion, and yes it took a while, that conducting negotiations -- absent terms of reference and against the backdrop of relentless settlement construction -- was not working so well. Israel was far chirpier with the existing negotiating modality, rejecting the change in formula as an unwarranted attempt to impose preconditions.
A second route for speculation places Envoy Mitchell on the losing side of an internal administration policy debate -- the suggestion being that Mitchell has advocated for a more forward-leaning U.S. approach, perhaps involving U.S. parameters for future negotiations.
The third, more unexpected explanation for this resignation has the administration utilizing Mitchell's final act as envoy, namely his stepping down, as a way of sending a message mainly to the Israeli prime minister that if he was not willing to step up his game in a serious way then the U.S. too could step back (something that might focus the Israeli leader's mind with a possible Palestinian move for recognition at the U.N. looming in September). There have been rumors for some time of Mitchell's imminent departure. Perhaps they were waiting for a moment of maximum impact, but more on that in a moment.