United States Middle East envoy Sen. George C. Mitchell has suggested he wants to set up shop in Jerusalem in his attempt to help Israel and the Palestinian Authority reach an agreement. Eleven predecessors have failed, and The New York Times's Thomas Friedman says he will be the 12th.
Mitchell, whose mother left Lebanon at the age of 18 and whose father was the orphaned son of Irish immigrants, plans to return to the Middle East this month and wants to set up office in Jerusalem so his staff can monitor day-to-day events.
He is expected to meet with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday to set out plans for the office and his next step in trying to bring about the creation of a new Arab country on the land of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and headed by the Palestinian Authority.
It is not yet known where in the capital he will place his office and which side of the old 1949-1967 border he will choose. Israel has sovereignty over the entire city, but the international community generally does not recognize the move. Clinton's predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, switched U.S. policy last year and equated Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the line with communities in Judea and Samaria.
Mitchell completed his first Middle East tour last week after being instructed by President Barack Obama to listen to all sides.
He also plans to take on the task of engaging Israel and Lebanon in direct peace negotiations, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah.
Mitchell said after accepting the appointment as President Obama's special Middle East envoy, "Every conflict has a solution."
Thomas Friedman wrote in The New York Times on Tuesday that he would "rather herd cats, or become John Thain’s image adviser, or have a colonoscopy" than try to tackle the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Friedman wrote in Times Tuesday that he would "rather herd cats, or become John Thain’s image adviser, or have a colonoscopy" than try to tackle the Israeli-Arab conflict.
He described the situation as nearly impossible. "Palestinians are now divided between the West Bank and Gaza, with a secular Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah in the West Bank and a fundamentalist Hamas government based in Gaza. But Hamas is further divided between a military and political wing, and the political wing is further divided between a Gaza-based leadership and a Damascus-based leadership, with the latter taking orders from both Syria and Iran," according to Friedman.
"Best I can tell, the Palestinians from Gaza are simultaneously negotiating a ceasefire with Israel in Cairo, pursuing war-crimes charges against Israel in Europe, digging new tunnels in the Sinai to smuggle more rockets into Gaza to hit Tel Aviv and trying to raise money for reconstruction from Iran."
He also did not spare criticism of Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria, about whom he once wrote, "What do the Shi'ite extremist leader Moktada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army have in common with the extremist Jewish settlers in Israel? Answer:… Both movements combine religious messianism, and a willingness to sacrifice their followers and others for absolutist visions, along with a certain disdain for man-made laws as opposed to those from G-d."
His column on Tuesday took aim at everyone including the current government, the Israel Is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu) party and every proposed solution to navigate the Middle East maze.
"Israel …has a government in which the prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister each has a different peace plan, war strategy and ceasefire conditions for Gaza, and the foreign minister and defense minster are running against each other in Israel’s election on Tuesday," he wrote.
Freidman reminded readers that Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman has been accused of being a fascist.
He noted that Judea and Samaria "is so chopped up and divided now by roads, checkpoints and fences to separate Israel’s crazy settlements from Palestinian villages that a Palestinian could fly from Jerusalem to Paris quicker than he or she could drive from Jenin, here in the northern West Bank, to Hevron in the south.
"For the Palestinians, Pan-Arabism, Communism, Islamism have all come and gone, with none having delivered statehood or prosperity…. In Israel, Peace Now’s two-state solution was blown up with the crash of the Oslo peace accords."
He asked, "Who in the world would want to try to repair this? If Mitchell is still up for it, well, then G-d bless him. My next column will look at some ways we might just start over."