Rosner: It’s Iran, not Mitchell, stupid


Shmuel Rosner writing in The New Republic:

In Israel and Palestine, Mitchell’s appointment was accepted without much enthusiasm, but also without much bickering. Obama, as he did with many other appointments to his cabinet of secretaries and advisors, made the fairly safe, cautious choice; appointing Mitchell cannot be considered a bold move by any stretch. When he was in Israel earlier in the decade, he got along well, but not very well, with both sides. His report was adopted, but not wholeheartedly adapted, by both parties. It had something for everyone: The Palestinians got their demand (rejected by Israel) for a freeze of settlements, while Israelis got their unequivocal demand for "ending the violence" launched by Palestinians in 2000.

Much will be written in the coming days about Mitchell’s distaste for both terror and settlements. However, the questions he will be facing now are more nuanced, and thus more complicated than in 2000….

Even if Mitchell can somehow overcome each side’s inertia, his achievement or failure will not be determined by new road maps or modified Obama parameters. Mitchell’s success will be determined by the ability of the Obama administration to engage Iran effectively, and by its ability to turn the regional tide. As long as those forces working to destabilize the Middle East–Hezbollah, Hamas, and their enablers–control the pace of events and inspire the Arab masses, it is very hard to envision a "road map" that will take this track to its final destination.

Thus, the appointment of the patient, distinguished Mitchell is playing for time: As he works to create the conditions for peace, his other colleagues will be tasked with the more daunting mission. This is the "linkage theory" turned upside-down: The real difference between the original linkage (that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to the region) and the second (that the region is the key to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) is that the latter has a much better chance of actually leading to peace in the Middle East. Iran, after all, is a source of instability across the region, funding terrorist groups in Gaza, Iraq, and Lebanon, and propping up the Syrian regime. Mitchell’s portfolio does not include negotiations with Iran; but the outcome of those talks will be the most significant factor in accomplishing his mission.

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