Amid Impasse in Peace Negotiations, America’s Chief Middle East Envoy Resigns
The news of Mr. Mitchell’s departure, while not a surprise, broke at an awkward time. His resignation is effective next Friday, the same day Mr. Obama is to meet at the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, with whom the president has had an icy, if polite, relationship. Yet the date on Mr. Mitchell’s brief resignation letter, which the White House released late Friday afternoon, is April 6, five weeks ago.
In the letter, Mr. Mitchell, 77, said he had initially agreed to do what the president called “the toughest job imaginable” for only two years. He largely abandoned his diplomatic efforts after a failed push last year to persuade Israel to freeze the construction of settlements in territories claimed by the Palestinians.
Mr. Mitchell last visited the region in December, even as divisions between the Israelis and Palestinians hardened and hostilities deepened. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appointed his deputy, David Hale, to take over as acting envoy.
Mr. Mitchell’s resignation comes at a time when the Middle East has been transformed by popular uprisings that have toppled aging autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt, prompted a NATO-led air war against Libya and led to harsh crackdowns in Syria and Bahrain.
The White House has announced that Mr. Obama plans to address the region in the wake of the upheaval — and the death of Osama bin Laden — in a speech on Thursday at the State Department. Coming a day before Mr. Netanyahu’s visit, it could set the stage for further disagreements. Mr. Obama was also scheduled to meet Tuesday with King Abdullah II of Jordan.