Commentary Magazine


George Mitchell and Nakba Day

As Rick recalled earlier today, when George Mitchell assumed the role of President Obama’s Middle East peace coordinator on the second day of the administration’s existence, he bragged about his success in brokering the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland and said that there was no reason why similar persistence would not be rewarded with a Palestinian state living in peace alongside a Jewish one.

Two years later, we can dissect the Obama foreign policy team’s mistakes, such as its foolish decision to pick fights with Israel over settlements that ensured that the Palestinians would dig in their heels and refuse to even negotiate with the Netanyahu government. But for all of their wrong-headed insistence on distancing themselves from Israel, the lack of peace is not the fault of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, or the woebegone George Mitchell who has now given up his fool’s errand of a job. The reason there are no peace negotiations, let alone a signed agreement is that the Palestinian Authority can’t do it. Not even the “moderates” of the Fatah-run PA think they can survive signing a peace of paper that acknowledges the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn.

The reason for this is that, unlike Ireland, where the leadership of the rebellion against the British accepted partition of their island in 1922 and waged a war against IRA maximalists to ensure that the peace would hold, the Palestinian leadership has never accepted that sort of responsibility. Instead, the PA, just like the supposedly more extreme Hamas movement, is celebrating Nakba Day today, keeping alive the hopes of Palestinian refugees and others that someday the verdict of history will be reversed and Israel will disappear. Had George Mitchell understood the differences between Irish and Palestinian history, he might have had an easier time figuring just how hopeless the task that Barack Obama set for him really was.

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