AMANPOUR: So the big question now: Will the president's declaration jump-start the peace process? Or is it broken beyond repair?
For answers, I turn to former Senator George Mitchell, the administration's envoy to Israel and the Palestinians until just this past Friday. And this is the senator's first interview since he stepped down.
AMANPOUR: Senator, a huge flap has arisen over the world "'67" in the speech by President Obama. Was the president signifying a major shift in U.S. policy?
MITCHELL: No, he wasn't. It is a significant statement. The president said, the United States' commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. And it is. Our security cooperation is the best it's ever been. The president didn't say that Israel has to go back to the '67 lines. He said "with agreed swaps." Those are significant. Swaps means an exchange of land intended to accommodate major Israeli population centers to be incorporated into Israel and Israel's security needs.
"Agreed" means, through negotiations, both parties must agree. There's not going be a border unless Israel agrees to it, and we know they won't agree unless their security needs are satisfied, as it should be. The proposal was identical to a proposal made by the Israeli prime minister just prior to Mr. Netanyahu. Ehud Olmert was the prime minister until 2009.
AMANPOUR: So why the flap, then? Why has Prime Minister Netanyahu and his supporters behaved as if this was a major change and really threatening Israel?
MITCHELL: I don't believe it is threatening Israel. And a major objective of this initiative, among others, is to prevent a disaster for Israel from occurring at the United Nations General Assembly in September, when the Palestinians have said they will see a unilateral declaration of statehood.
The president spoke out strongly against that. We oppose it. And the way to prevent that from occurring is to provide an alternative in direct negotiation that would foreclose or make not necessary that option.
AMANPOUR: You've just handed in your resignation after just over two years of being the special envoy. Are you more optimistic or less optimistic than you were when you started this?
MITCHELL: Well, one has to have optimism to undertake this assignment. I knew, of course...
AMANPOUR: When one resigns, what does that mean?
MITCHELL: Well, it means just what I said when I resigned. When I met with the president initially, I said to him, Mr. President, I can't do a full four-year term. I said two years. And he said that's fine.
AMANPOUR: That's very nice and very diplomatic. On the other hand, many of your friends and allies and colleagues in this endeavor have said that George Mitchell is a decent and good and honest man and he is faced with a process that is going nowhere.
MITCHELL: Well, it's indisputable that we have not made as much progress as we would have liked.