WASHINGTON - US Mideast envoy George Mitchell may want to leave his negotiator position at the end of 2009, Elliott Abrams said in an editorial published by the National Review on Monday.
Elliot, a former senior advisor on Mideast affairs to the Bush Administration, said in his article that according to reports emanating from Washington, Mitchell would be able to quit his post once Israel heeds the US' demand to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank.
Mitchell, who will celebrate his 76th birthday next month, was appointed Mideast envoy by US President Barack Obama immediately after he took office in January.
A senior American official spoke of "professional differences" between Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but told Ynet that the disagreement has not deteriorated to a full-blown crisis.
Mitchell is reportedly displeased with the recent appointment of Obama confidante Dennis Ross as special advisor to Clinton on the Gulf region, including Iran. However, it is estimated that Obama will prevent Mitchell from resigning at a time when the US is looking to jumpstart the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and lay out a new plan that would promote a solution to the conflict based on the "two states for two peoples" paradigm.
In his article, Abrams ridiculed the "triumph" of Obama's diplomacy with regards to the Jewish settlements, saying it would eventually hurt not only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well, as it would force him to return to the negotiation table following an American–Israeli compromise on the matter.
"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," he wrote.
"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."
Mitchell is scheduled to arrive in Israel in the coming days for additional talks on the settlement issue. On Monday the White House was expected to officially respond to the construction of a hotel in an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Clinton refused to address the subject on Sunday.