A surprise development in the million dollar question of who President Obama will appoint to oversee Israeli/Palestinian conflict intervention. I had lobbied hard in these pages earlier in the year for George Mitchell to be sent in. More recently there had been much speculation and controversy over the appointment of Dennis Ross. Serious media reports now indicate that former Senator Mitchell may be a strong possibility, and that this will meet with a much better reception in the world beyond the United States. I want to reiterate my arguments earlier for why Mitchell is crucial.
Here is an excerpt from Change in U.S. Middle East Policy:
The president must be a person who sees the need for constant engagement on the ground in Israel, so that both sides have a third party they can rely on to push for compliance to agreements. Both sides of the conflict need a U.S. president who understands that there is no military solution to this conflict, and that careful negotiation has yielded the most hope and progress over the years. The president must have a keen understanding of the Jewish community of Israel, but also of the Arab world.
I once had a conversation with Sen. George Mitchell about what worked in his successful intervention in Northern Ireland. The answer was deeply committed engagement in which he as a special envoy could personally represent the president’s wishes and guarantees. This meant that as he negotiated, he could help both sides commit to a step-by-step process of positive change.
Here is an excerpt from What Exactly is Pro-Israel?
The American people must decide what is pro-Israel and what is anti-Israel. Some interesting lessons learned come from Northern Ireland. On March 26, 2007 Ian Paisley, co-founder of the DUP party of Northern Ireland, sat side by side with Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, his most reviled enemy, and the two of them pledged their full participation in an Irish government. This is the same Ian Paisley who had consistently been the voice of Protestant opposition and demonization of Catholics. This is the same Sinn Fein that had represented the Irish Republican Army as it carried out decades of violence against Protestants. How did these enemies get to 2007? There was a little stop along the way in 1998, in which the United States and one George Mitchell played a central role. In 1998, former Senator George Mitchell, of Irish descent, oversaw the completion of the historic Good Friday Accord that led eventually to the power sharing arrangements which Northern Ireland now enjoys. He was supported by another man of partial Irish descent, President Bill Clinton. Senator Mitchell once told me in person exactly how he managed to successfully outmaneuver the spoilers in the Irish/Protestant conflict. He explained to me: I had a pad of paper with my handwritten notes. I had the only copy. On it I placed what each side pledged to do, and exactly when and in what sequence they would do it. I let them know that if either side failed in the sequence, then the President of the United States would publicly lay the blame for the failure of the entire accord on the side that had broken their word. These words were so simple, so remarkable, so pristine in their understanding of negotiation and arbitration. And this is precisely what has been missing from Palestinian/Israeli peace processes from the very beginning. It is not as if the American road to Irish peacemaking was easy. There were spoilers in America, just as there are now regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There were people on both sides who thought they were pro-Irish. But were they pro-Irish all those decades or anti-Irish? In the end, it was Mitchell and Clinton who were the most pro-Irish, because they stopped the killing of Irish children once and for all. It goes without saying that the issues were exceedingly complex, that it took years to identify the compromises, and that Mitchell’s charisma and skills added up to much more than a pad of paper. However, what was irreplaceable was the American political will to authorise Mr. Mitchell to boil it all down to that pad of paper and its conditions. Perhaps it is time to finally tell our congressmen to tell George Mitchell to go to the Holy Land, with a single pad of paper in hand, armed with the only weapon necessary: the American will to write on that pad of paper what needs to be written, what everyone knows must be written. How many more Palestinian and Jewish children have to die before the American people find the willpower to send a brilliant negotiator to the Middle East with a single pad of paper?
SO PLEASE WRITE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA RIGHT AWAY WITH A MESSAGE OF SUPPORT FOR MITCHELL’S APPOINTMENT, AND AT THE VERY LEAST THE APPOINTMENT OF A TEAM FOR THE ISRAELI PALESTINIAN CONFLICT THAT WILL TRULY WORK FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE.© Marc Gopin