While being interviewed last week on Charlie Rose, U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell noted, “under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel.” That’s technically true. But since Mitchell has been tasked by the Obama administration with getting the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, the Israelis were a little curious as to whether Mitchell was speaking more than just matter-of-factly, and as more than just a person who happens to be familiar with that area of American law. Was his answer a hint? A veiled threat?
Turns out that, according to an assistant secretary of state, Mitchell was merely answering a direct question:
Mitchell was simply asked a question with an historical context. You know, are there sticks that are available? And I think he mentioned that this is a step that the United States has taken in the past … He wasn’t signaling that this is something that we’re forecasting in the future. You know, but it is—it obviously is something that we have in our toolbox. It’s not that we’re out, you know, wielding that particular tool at this particular time.
If Mitchell was in fact launching a trial balloon, to see how the notion of threatening to withhold Israeli aid would go over, then he appears to have gotten his answer.