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George Mitchell's Pointless Trip

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
February 3, 2009
The Daily Beast


America's new envoy to the Middle East just returned from his first listening tour, where he undeniably got an earful. But the next big step in U.S. leadership will have to be much more than just parading Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table.

The estimable George Mitchell, America's new envoy to the Middle East, went out to the region for a week to listen-and without doubt, learned nothing that he and most American policy makers haven't known for decades.

And while some of his Arab hosts may have appreciated Mitchell's genuine disposition to hear them out, they weren't looking for the Obama administration to listen to them, but to lead. And they're asking for precisely the kind of American leadership they have been calling for over half a century--to lean on Israel, to twist the arms of Israeli leaders, to compel Israel to give back the West Bank to the Palestinians and make a part of East Jerusalem its capital, and other sundries.

What Arab leaders want now and what they've always wanted is for the U.S. to compel Israel to make the most far-reaching political and security concessions and to trust that Arabs and Palestinians will, in turn, keep some kind of peace. None of this is to suggest that Israel should not be prepared to make far-reaching concessions.


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