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The Mysterious Mr. Mitchell’s MacGuffin

July 23, 2009



It’s a bit like a Hitchock thriller. Nobody knows where he is — not even the U.S. State Department — and nobody knows when he will show up in Israel. All we know is, suspense is building and it’s time to watch out for surprises.

President Barack Obama’s Middle East peace envoy Senator George Mitchell is somewhere in transit — probably – and expected in Israel and the Palestinian Territories next week –  sometime.

A State Dept. spokesman at Wednesday’s regular briefing could not say much at all about Mitchell’s movements beyond he has left Washington.  Could he be in London meeting the Syrian foreign minister? Don’t know.  Is he going to Turkey as well? We will try to find that out. When is he going to be in Israel? Can’t say exactly.

Mitchell is famous for playing his cards very close to his vest and his vest very close to his skin. He gives out very little information when he is engaged in high-stakes mediation.

There is an unmistakable aura of mystery about what is going on at this delicate stage of talks with Israel and the Palestinians to get stalled peace negotiations started again, by resolving what looks like a standoff between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and Washington’s demand that it cease.

There is intense speculation in “diplomatic circles” over whether the coming visit by Mitchell could lead to a showdown, or pluck some brilliant compromise from the jaws of deadlock, setting the rusting wheels of the peace process back in motion at last. But so far its mostly all heat and no light, pending the arrival of Obama’s mediator.

If Mitchell is true to his Hitchcock thriller persona, this may be the moment he chooses to produce “the MacGuffin”, the twist element that’s pitched into the drama at just the right moment to rivet the attention of the audience and drive the plot forward – even if it is sometimes completely forgotten by the end of the movie.

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