George Mitchell, in rare public appearance, expresses optimism about Israeli-Palestinian talks

U.S. special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell generally shuns the limelight, but this week he was in Washington and keeping a pretty high profile.

On Monday the lead U.S. official in Israeli-Palestinian “proximity talks” offered a mildly upbeat assessment of the indirect peace talks at an event sponsored by the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital (JPDS-NC) at the 6th & I Historic Synagogue.

I wasn’t there, but you can read Politico diplomatic correspondent Laura Rozen’s thorough account of his comments here. 

No headline news, but one attendee told me the underlying message was a pretty positive one – that both Israel and the Palestinians are ready for talks to progress and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be in a “unique position” to make peace.

Mitchell also hinted that Hamas could eventually be part of the negotiations – if it changes its positions enough.

Today Mitchell also met with Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who said he was “encouraged” because Mitchell “agreed that the first and most essential requirement of the process and necessarily of any possible outcome, is that Israel’s security is absolutely paramount….I was especially pleased that Sen. Mitchell reiterated the President’s commitment that no deal is going to be thrust upon our ally, and that Israelis need not fear an American plan being dictated to them.”

Also according to Ackerman: Mitchell discussed “the three critical long-term threats to Israel that make achieving peace an urgent priority: demographic trends that will force Israel to choice between being a Jewish or a democratic state; the increasing radicalization of the Middle East and the campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel — including the Goldstone report — and to convert the national struggle between Israelis and Palestinians into an disastrous fight between Jews and Moslems; and the proliferation of advanced military technology, especially ballistic missiles, that make Israel’s already challenging defense requirements almost unmanageable.”

And Iran, of course.

“I came away from the meeting deeply reassured that Obama Administration is proceeding in the peace process on the basis of a mature understanding of the political requirements of all the key players, and a deeply principled commitment to Israel’s security,” Ackerman said.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.