Yesterday, Abe Foxman took the weird step of complaining that George Mitchell is “fair” and therefore somehow unsuited to serve as an envoy overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today, Foxman whined to Ben Smith that Mitchell is “a fair person, he’s a decent person, he’s a knowledgeable person – but I think he is the personification of even-handedness.” Foxman, you see, is looking for an envoy who’ll eschew even-handedness.
I understand that Foxman thinks he’s helping Israel by demanding that the U.S. only appoint envoys who’ll be biased toward Israel, but that’s an incredibly short-sighted view. Wiser pro-Israel figures like J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami are applauding the choice:
The choice of Senator Mitchell signals the President’s serious intention to inject new thinking and fresh perspectives into America’s efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
President Obama spoke eloquently Tuesday about the important role the United States must play in ushering in a new era of peace and in helping people around the world to move beyond old hatreds and lines of tribe. We share and endorse his vision both of a new direction for U.S. policy in the Middle East and of renewed American leadership in Middle East peacemaking.
Former Senate Majority leader George Mitchell is uniquely well suited to play a critical role in that effort. His many accomplishments – including brokering Ireland’s Good Friday peace accord and his well-received report on the causes of the Second Intifada – are rooted in his ability to listen and to speak to both sides in conflicts and to provide the leadership needed to solve long-standing problems.
Israel has a strong interest in peace. And achieving peace requires the United States to participate in a credible way. If President Obama were to send someone over there who’ll just repeat Israeli government talking points, that won’t help anyone. Credible American intervention can, by contrast, deliver Israel the security goods that military strength never has. We’ve seen it in the past with deals with Egypt and Jordan. And we could see it again with Syria and, one hopes, with the Palestinians and—via the Arab Peace Initiative—with the entire Arab League. Ultimately, that would do far more to advance Israeli interests than would any yes-man.