May 13, 2011
George Mitchell steps down as peace envoy
George Mitchell, President Obama’s envoy to Israeli-Arab peace talks, is stepping down from the post.
Mitchell handed in his resignation on Friday.
“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,” he said in his letter to Obama.
Obama thanked Mitchell.
“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,” Obama said in a statement.
One of Obama’s first acts as president was to name Mitchell, a former Democratic senator from Maine who is best known for brokering a 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 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 envoy in his place.