Commentary Magazine


George Mitchell Gets It Wrong

I don’t see it on the Internet, but the Jerusalem Post today runs a depressing excerpt of remarks delivered in Israel last month by George Mitchell, who apparently has been picked to be the next U.S. Middle East envoy:

“I understand the people in the Middle East are discouraged,” Mitchell said. “I understand your feelings. But from my experience in Northern Ireland, I share the feeling that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created by human beings, and can be ended by human beings. It may take a long time. But with committed, active, and strong leadership, it can happen here in the Middle East.”

Where to begin? For starters, remember why the Northern Ireland conflict ended: the IRA had been beaten. Hamas, Hezbollah, and their ilk have not been beaten. They have taken a licking from Israel but they will emerge stronger than ever — and unlikely to make peace. Efforts to end this conflict prematurely are likely to backfire as badly as did the Oslo peace process or the Israeli pullouts from southern Lebanon and Gaza, all of which convinced the Palestinians not that the Israelis were “partners for peace” but that they were a weak, decadent society ripe for defeat.

One would think that the circumstances today are less propitious for peace negotiations than ever. After all, Hamas, which is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, is in total control of Gaza and bids to replace Fatah in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas leads a discredited, corrupt, and ineffective administration. And Iran is getting more powerful, thus encouraging its proxies in Hamas and Hezbollah to be as intransigent as ever. For all these reasons, most Israelis that I talk to (I’ve been in Israel for the past few days) are resigned to the fact that their conflict with the Palestinians has no solution, at least not in the short-term. But here come the Obama-ites, led by Mitchell, with their naïve hope that the major obstacle to a “solution” was George W. Bush’s unwillingness to “engage,” and that they will make up for this failing.

Their failure is almost predestined. All I can hope is that the consequences won’t be too costly.

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