George Mitchell's resignation leaves the Obama administration without a Middle East envoy at the worst possible time. The Palestinian Authority is slowly moving towards declaring statehood even without Israeli consent and an increasing number of states is considering to grant recognition should such a move be made. Now, some have interpreted Mitchell's resignation as another reminder of the difficulties prevailing in the Middle East. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell gave a voice to that sentiment when he argued that Middle East peace seems unattainable at the moment.
But the failure to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations is also a failure of leadership. The delegation of the negotiations to a special envoy is part of the problem and not the solution. Mitchell's resignation is at least a chance for Foggy Bottom or the White House to take some leadership on the issue. Even if Middle East peace isn't easy to come by, it certainly isn't unattainable. If it is American leadership that ultimately will have to be relied upon in fostering that sort of lasting and sustainable peace, it might be more helpful to break the habit of concentrating on the peace process only after all political capital has been spent elsewhere. Mitchell's departure as Middle East envoy, after all, was hardly noticed. Not least because he hasn't been doing too much.