Helena Cobban predictions on Mitchell's team

In her Just World News blog, here, Helena Cobban has reported that her sources in Washington have confirmed her suspicion that U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell reports to both President Barack Obama and to U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton.

When Mitchell’s appointment was announced in January, a day or two after Obama’s inauguration, it seemed clear that Mitchell would report to the President. When Hilary Clinton visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian Presidential Headquarters in the Muqata’a on 11 March, she indicated that Mitchell reports to both her and to Obama.

Helena reported in this posting on her blog yesterday that one of her “(regrettably anonymous) sources in the administration” … said that “It is very important that there is no daylight between any of the three of them”.

OK.

Then, Helena wrote, “it seems the staffing pieces are starting to fall into place. Mitchell will have, it turns out, four people who will report directly to him. Their exact job titles seem not to be clear– whether they will be “deputies”, or “chief of staff”, or something else…. But the important thing is these four will be expected to coordinate closely with each other and each will report directly to Mitchell”.

Helena’s report continued: “They are:

Gen. Keith Dayton, the guy who’s been running the fairly controversial (in Palestinian circles) effort to train up a pro-Abbas Palestinian security force. He will apparently carry on doing what he is doing– and presumably will also be heavily involved in discussions on the security regime in the OPTs in the context of further Israeli withdrawals. But from now on, he’ll be part of the Mitchell operation, and reporting to Mitchell.

David Hale, until now a deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, and formerly I think Ambassador to Jordan. Hale has been traveling with Mitchell this week. I think the expectation will be that he’ll be the person who’ll go to Jerusalem to set up the office the Mitchell operation will be opening there. (Let’s hope it is of considerably more use all round than the ridiculously expensive and under-performing office that Tony Blair has been maintaining in the American Colony Hotel for the past couple of years…. Also, does this mean curtains for Tony? I certainly hope so.)

Fred Hof. Hof is a longtime Middle East expert, whose principal expertise is in the Syrian-Israeli-Lebanese nexus. But he was also chief of staff of the 2000-2001 Mitchell Commission, which reported on the causes of the outbreak of the Second Intifada, and drafted the commission’s April 2001 report. So Hof knows a lot about Palestinian affairs, too. He will be working primarily from Washington, backing up Mitchell’s efforts on both the Palestinian and Syrian tracks.

Mara Rudman, who worked in the Clinton-era National Security Council and has until now been the executive secretary of the Obama NSC. She has also been traveling with Mitchell this week. Her responsibility on the team will apparently include managing its efforts to coordinate with all the other arms of the federal government. She’s also pretty well connected to various parts of the US Jewish community”.

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