President Barack Obama will move quickly to name a Middle East envoy and is strongly considering former Sen. George Mitchell for the job, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
The naming of the veteran international troubleshooter to the role would signal that Obama was serious about carrying out his campaign pledge to engage early in his administration on the Middle East issue, analysts said.
Best known for peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland, the former Senate majority leader, 75, also has experience in the Middle East. Mitchell was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to find ways to halt Israeli-Palestinian violence.
"This is a tremendous signal of (Obama's) desire to nail down once and for all a Palestinian-Israeli peace, and that he knows it is the linchpin to so many other difficulties we have had in the Middle East," said Gregory Orfalea, who teaches Arab-American history at Georgetown University.
If he gets the job, Mitchell's first challenge would be dealing with the crisis in Gaza, where Israeli troops are withdrawing after a 22-day offensive.
Mitchell's 2001 report on the Israelis and Palestinians called for the Israelis to freeze construction of new settlements and stop shooting at unarmed demonstrators, and Palestinians to prevent attacks and punish those who perpetrated them.
(Hat tip: Washington Note)