George Mitchell on J’lem

Posted on January 7, 2010 In Blog

Politico’s Laura Rozen flags a Charlie Rose interview of Obama Mideast Envoy Senator George Mitchell (to air tonight).

As Mitchell seems to be on the verge of getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, here’s his exchange with Rose about the critical issue of Jerusalem:

Charlie Rose: It does not include east Jerusalem. There have been announcements in the last 48 hours of new settlement construction in east Jerusalem where the Palestinians want to make their capital.

George Mitchell: Yes.

Charlie Rose: And it’s in the midst of Palestinians.

George Mitchell: If you go back over time and look at Camp David and the prior efforts, you will see that the single most difficult issue amidst an array of extremely difficult issues is Jerusalem and it is very complicated, difficult, emotional on all sides, Jerusalem is significant to the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, it’s important to everybody, we recognize that, and we try to deal with it. But understand the different perspectives, Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1980.

Charlie Rose: Annexed is an important word.

George Mitchell: Annexed is a very important word. No other country and including the United States recognizes that annexation. And neither do the Palestinians or the Arabs of course but for the Israelis, what they’re building in, is in part of Israel. Now, the others don’t see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject. Our view is, let’s get into negotiations, let’s deal with the issues and come up with a solution to all of them including Jerusalem which will be exceedingly difficult, but in my judgment, possible.

From our perspective, the good news here is that Sen. Mitchell realizes how complex and difficult this issue is, recognizes the Israeli/Jewish perspective and does not telegraph a readiness to impose an American solution to the status of Jerusalem. The bad news is that he seems to give the Holy City equal status in the three monotheistic faiths, when in fact its status in Islam is nowhere near its status in Judaism.

Senator Mitchell, we hope, will learn that his negotiation enterprise will only have a chance at success if he, and the United States government, recognize Jerusalem’s unique place in Judaism, and works to effectuate that reality in the negotiations’ final product.