Mitchell: “Little likelihood” US can avert Palestinian UN bid

Laura Rozen

George Mitchell, President Obama's former Middle East peace envoy, said Thursday that the United States has little chance of jump-starting new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and heading off a Palestinian bid to seek increased international recognition at the United Nations later this month.

"I think there was and is little likelihood that they will succeed in that effort," Mitchell told a conference at Georgetown University Thursday, Reuters reported. By "they," he was referring to a last-ditch effort by his former deputy David Hale and White House Middle East advisor Dennis Ross to get Israelis and Palestinians to agree to a formula for peace negotiations that would avert the looming showdown at the UN.

Mitchell, the former Senate Majority leader and North Ireland peace negotiator, resigned in clear frustration from the envoy job in May, after two fruitless years of trying to nudge the Israelis and Palestinians back to the peace table.

He expressed continued pessimism Thursday that the dug-in position of both parties can be overcome to lead to renewed negotiations anytime soon. US-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed eleven months ago, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a freeze on the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

"There are tremendous obstacles to be overcome, not the least of which is the internal political situation on both sides," Mitchell said. "In the short term, and I mean by that the next few months, it's difficult to be overly optimistic, to put it mildly."

In the longer term, however, Mitchell thought the stalemate is not intractable.

"...In the medium and longer term there is a basis for believing that they will be able to take those steps primarily because the current circumstance, in my judgment, is unsustainable and both societies face very large risks from a continuation of the conflict," he said.