Obama names Mitchell deputy as new Middle East envoy

US president schedules Mideast policy speech for one day before Netanyahu visit; David Hale will replace George Mitchell as acting envoy.

David Hale 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
David Hale 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama announced the resignation on Friday of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and named his deputy, David Hale, as his replacement for the time being.
Obama, in a statement, said Mitchell had always said he would only serve two years in the position. He said the United States remains committed to peace in the Middle East.
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He said Hale will serve as acting envoy. "I have every confidence in David's ability to continue to make progress in this important effort," Obama said.
Mitchell's departure comes ahead of Obama's expected speech laying out his new Middle East strategy and a visit to the White House by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on May 20.
The White House of Friday said that Obama would deliver the speech one day before Netanyahu's visit.
Obama, who has enjoyed a boost in his standing at home and abroad with the death of the al-Qaida chief last week, is also expected to use his address to talk about US hopes for advancing long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mitchell's resignation would be announced by the White House later on Friday.
Mitchell, 77, a former US senator who helped broker the Northern Ireland peace deal, was one of the first members of Obama's foreign policy team to be announced and has shuttled extensively between Washington and Middle East capitals trying to set up new negotiations.
Direct peace talks resumed briefly last year but broke down over settlement construction in the West Bank.
Faced with a deadlock, the United States in December scrapped efforts to relaunch direct peace talks and Mitchell has not visited the region since then.
Obama has recently made changes to his Middle East policy team and named Daniel Shapiro, a senior adviser who has helped shape the response to the Middle East upheaval, as his nominee to be the new US ambassador to Israel.