Following on my previous post on the appointment of George Mitchell as President Obama’s Mideast peace envoy, I’ve written an open letter to Mitchell. The full text is at The American Prospect. Here’s an excerpt:
…as I’m sure you know, in coming here from America now, the biggest difference you’ll experience is not the weather, language, or religion. You are coming from a land of new hope to the countries of despair. The collapse of the Oslo process and the playacting of the Bush administration’s Annapolis initiative have erased belief among Israelis, Palestinians, and our neighbors that negotiations can achieve anything. The al-Aqsa Intifada and Ehud Olmert’s inconclusive wars in Lebanon and Gaza proved that we will not moderate each other’s positions by blowing each other up. The mood, on both sides, is extraordinarily grim. If leaders don’t tell you that honestly, you should change into a cardigan, put a tourist’s day pack over your shoulder, and slip into a Tel Aviv or Ramallah café, where anyone sipping coffee will tell you the truth. Your task, Mr. Mitchell, includes changing the public mood and — even if you must avoid ever saying so publicly — encouraging a change in leadership.
You and your boss have little time to create a new dynamic. Five years ago, when Ehud Olmert announced his support for partial withdrawal from the West Bank, he warned that the two-state solution had a limited shelf life. “We are approaching a point where more and more Palestinians will say … ‘there is no place for two states between the Jordan and the sea. All we want is the right to vote,'” said Olmert, then vice prime minister. In other words, Palestinians would seek a single state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and that would be the end of Israel….
Since then, confidence that a two-state solution is possible has indeed slipped precariously. Even before the Gaza war, a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that 70 percent of West Bank and Gaza residents regarded the chances of an independent Palestinian state in the next five years as “slim to nonexistent.”
Read the whole article at the American Prospect, and return to SoJo to comment.