George J. Mitchell Speaks on Middle Eastern Relations

George J. Mitchell, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, lectures at Boston University on Wednesday March 14, 2018. Photo courtesy of Bill McCormack.

By Ying Wang
BU News Service

The Honorable George J. Mitchell, former United States Senate Majority Leader, opened the 4th Annual Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Lecture at the BU Elie Wiesel Center Wednesday.

Mitchell was elected to a full term in the Senate in 1982 and served as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that service, he was also the chairman of The Walt Disney Company and a Special Advisor to President Clinton on Ireland.

Nearly 200 people came to focus on Middle Eastern relations and hear Mitchell discuss the past and future.

Born in an Irish-Lebanese family in Waterville, Maine in 1933, Mitchell went to Bowdoin College and received a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

After a humorous introduction about his previous book tours, Mitchell brought up “some serious words” as he described. He first talked about Yitzhak Rabin, a former Israeli Prime Minister, as and described him as “one of the most powering political figures of the 20th century.”

Rabin was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for the peace talks that produced the Oslo Accords and was assassinated in the following year.

“I was honored to work with him and proud, till the end of my time as a senate, to call him a friend,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell disagreed with the idea that the world is more dangerous than ever and that the United States is in decline at home and abroad.

“Fear of future [and] complaining about current events is as old as human civilization,” he said. “[Another world war] is not likely in the foreseeable future, largely because of the overwhelming military governance of the United States in its allies.”

Mitchell believes one in three born by 2050 will be Muslim and it’s important to monitor how the Middle East is handling itself.

“In the 21st century, what happens to the Muslim world will affect everyone, in particular, the governing world power — the United States,” Mitchell said.

Speaking about the complex and multifaceted conflicts in the Middle East, Mitchell acknowledged that no single policy or action can solve all the regional problems. The support for the two-state solution has been declining in both societies but Mitchell is confident in an upcoming solution.

“A peaceful resolution of the Israel-and-Palestine conflict would be a highly significant and sovereign step,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell gave hope in his closing words, speaking from his own time serving in international affairs.

“From my experience in Northern Ireland, I reached the conclusion that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended,” Mitchell said. “Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings.”

Dr. Adil Najam, Dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School at BU as well as the event’s moderator, asked Mitchell about President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“It is quite clear based on the statements that he has made that he does not have the same level of the lift and commitment to the two states solution as did President Bush, President Obama and President Clinton,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he thinks the deep distrust that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, have for each other is a major obstacle.


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