Mitchell steps down as peace envoy


WASHINGTON (JTA) — George Mitchell, President Obama’s envoy to Israeli-Arab peace talks, is stepping down from the post.

In the resignation letter he handed in Friday, Mitchell wrote to Obama,
"I strongly support your vision of comprehensive peace in the Middle East and thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your administration."

Obama thanked Mitchell, saying in a statement that "As a nation, we remain committed to peace in the Middle East and to building on George’s hard work and progress toward achieving this goal."

One of Obama’s first acts as president was to name Mitchell, a former Democratic senator from Maine who brokered the peace agreement in Northern Ireland, as his envoy. The appointment was seen as a sign of Obama’s determination to extract an agreement from the Israelis and Palestinians.

However, after a brief high last September when the sides renewed direct talks, the Palestinian Authority walked out of negotiations, demanding that Israel extend a settlement freeze.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was not interested in talks with the Palestinian Authority as long it maintained its recent reconciliation with Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

The multiple impasses sidelined Mitchell’s work.

In his resignation statement, Mitchell said it had been his intention to serve only two years, although he had said multiple times that he wanted to give the process five years.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton named Mitchell’s deputy, David Hale, as acting Middle East envoy.

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