Is Mitchell looking to leave by the end of the year?


Former Bush national security adviser Elliott Abrams is making news for a National Review article he’s penned because he mentions that George Mitchell "is reported to want to leave his negotiator position at the end of 2009." Laura Rozen at asked Abrams where he got that information, and whether Abram also told others about that in a private forum (which Haaretz reported and then removed from an article on Monday):

"The only thing I have written was the NRO piece. Period," Abrams told The Cable by e-mail Monday. "I said ‘he is reported,’ as I have been told this by people here in Washington. I could not go further than what I wrote, and could not say ‘he wants to retire.’"

Asked about the Ha’aretz allegation that he [also] said it in a private forum, Abrams said, "I don’t recall saying that at a private session; what I assume I said (and I can’t recall when or where) is exactly what I wrote. I don’t know Mitchell well and am getting this second hand, so I would not have said he is going to leave as if I were sure of it. But people tend to forget modifiers." …

Chatter that Mitchell may not be around in the job for long could be seen as a way to embolden those in Israel and abroad who think Israel should buck the Obama administration’s call for a settlement freeze.

The Abrams piece in National Review argues that the Obama adminstration’s demand for a settlement freeze is going to hurt not just Israel but the Palestinians as well, and thus they should be hoping that the U.S. fails:

Which is why the actual Palestinian position is to pray for Mitchell to fail. If he fails and there is no compromise deal, they are sitting pretty. Washington denounces Jerusalem, bad feeling between them continues, and Obama effectively demands nothing of the Palestinians. Of course, settlement construction continues as well, but the Palestinian leaders aren’t stupid; they know it’s a made-up issue. They know that life in the West Bank is getting better, the economy is improving, the Israelis are removing roadblocks and obstacles to movement — and they know that settlement construction provides badly needed employment for Palestinian construction workers. So, Mitchell’s failure would be sheer heaven for them, while a compromise — well, Erekat said it. Bad news.

Abbas has said a hundred times in the last few months that he will not agree to resume negotiations with Israel unless there is a settlement freeze. The United States will call whatever compromise Mitchell reaches a “settlement freeze” and will then turn the pressure on Abbas to go back to the table — forcing him to eat his words. Either he, too, will have to call any partial moratorium a real freeze, returning to the table while Hamas happily explains that he has once again given away Palestinian rights — or he’ll have to refuse to negotiate, which would anger Obama. Lose-lose.
So, this Obama settlement mania will end up damaging not only Netanyahu but Abbas as well. What a triumph of American diplomacy.

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