WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s special Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, plans to resign after more than two largely fruitless years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks, U.S. officials said.
The White House is expected to announce on Friday that the veteran mediator and broker of the Northern Ireland peace accord is stepping down for personal reasons, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the afternoon announcement. There are no imminent plans to announce a replacement for Mitchell, the officials said, although his staff is expected to remain in place at least temporarily.
Mitchell’s resignation comes at a critical time for the Middle East, which is embroiled in turmoil, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been moribund since last September and is now further complicated by an agreement between Palestinian factions to share power. Obama is expected to deliver a speech next week about his administration’s views of developments in the region ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Since his appointment on Obama’s second full day in office in January 2009, Mitchell, 77, had spent much of his time shuttling between the Israelis, Palestinians and friendly Arab states in a bid to restart long-stalled peace talks that would create an independent Palestinian state. But in recent months, particularly after the upheaval in Arab countries that ousted longtime U.S. ally and key peace partner Hosni Mubarak from power in Egypt, his activity had slowed markedly.