No “no” is final, U.S. mideast peace envoy says
President Barack Obama’s mideast peace envoy George Mitchell is an unlikely optimist.
Ten months into an assignment that has confounded generations of U.S. diplomats, Mitchell said on Wednesday he remained upbeat about bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks — thanks in part to his experience resolving another once-intractable crisis, the dispute between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
Mitchell, credited with shaping the 1998 Good Friday Accord that ended that long and bloody conflict, said the key was not to lose heart.
“Over a period of five years, I chaired three separate sets of discussions. The main negotiation lasted for nearly two years. For most of that time, there was little or no progress, and our effort was branded a failure,” Mitchell told a news briefing.
“But then, after two years of saying no, both sides said yes. In a real sense, we had 700 days of failure and one day of success.”
Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, has thus far had little success in shuttle diplomacy aimed at resuming stalled Mideast peace talks, which have seen the two sides still bitterly divided over the issue of Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian lands.
Mitchell said there was no alternative but to push forward.
“If you’re serious about peace, you can’t take as final the first no, the second no or even the hundredth no. You can’t get discouraged by setbacks and you can’t be deterred by criticism. You have to be patient, persevering and determined,” he said.
Photo Credit:Reuters/Fadi Arouri (Mitchell during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah in September)