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January 28, 2009

Your Turn: The Envoy

Mitchell Livni.jpg

Your read?

(image: Sebastian Scheiner/A.P. caption: U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, second right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, second left, meet at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s new Mideast envoy sought Wednesday to boost a 10-day-old Gaza cease-fire)

  •[email protected]/ DennisQ

    Mitchell is wasting his time trying to sell peace to a people that want war. The Israelis are happy to go through the motions but they won’t give an inch. I’d like to see Mitchell honestly report Israeli intransigence. Then they’ll call him an anti-Semite.

  • Michael

    The drama of the photo qua photo is created by the looming shadow on the left, which is read easily enough as the pervasive presence of news-making organs. The slight alienation achieved by the sheer size of the shadow, though, also invites us to think about the role of press, and particularly its ability to magnify and distort delicate and difficult matters, matters that require fertile ambiguity and persistent subtlety. At least the two principles seem to be relating amiably.

  • The Goob

    I do so appreciate this; to be thrown a photo like this in this way and be asked to catalog my reactions.
    At first, all I saw was the title and photo, and my immediate response was “George Mitchell is walking with a casually well-dressed young man with longish hair into some sort of government building. Who is that he’s with, his son or something. I can’t imagine a major player with that kind of appearance. This makes no sense.” Then I notice the dramatic lighting, the silhouetted camera, the “audience” behind them, think “really nice picture, still wonder what’s going on.” Finally find the caption and it’s “That’s the Israeli Foreign Minister!?” Google now steps in and turns this into a focused study of gender. Much as I have opinions about events in this part of the world I was not familiar with this player.
    We must be in Israel, but it could so easily be DC. I *still* see the central figure as a casually dressed young man. Mitchell seems genuinely happy but somehow not entirely comfortable, Livni’s stance is what I might describe as confidently deferential, just barely leading, pleasantries being exchange no doubt. The difference in comfort level is probably mostly to do with locatiion. The “audience” is most likely security, the two you can see both holding their hands together in some way, slightly at attention. I still really like that silhouette/lighting with that camera with the deadly aim on our subjects.
    The comfort and ease between the two makes me doubt our ability to be successful here. We are obviously so much more culturally aligned with Israel. A scene like this will never occur with the Palestinian representative. This picture just shouts “power”. There is so little chance of defying power like this, you mostly learn to live with it and fight it in tiny increments. Violent resistance will be met in fold. The Palestinians are everyman. They will only be allowed on this scene in a highly controlled manner.

  • zatopa

    “They’ll never know what hit ‘em.”

  • Antonio

    I agree that the shadow of the photographer brings a special tension to the picture. What struck me about that single shadow, after knowing the photo’s setting, was the absence of 50 other photojournalists.
    We really don’t get enough of the good, as opposed to say Britney or Lindsay getting in or out some vehicle, drunk or not.

  • Phil Sheehan

    First visceral reaction: That shadow on the wall. Has a news camera ever before seemed so ominous? Second, and lingering reaction: the two principals caught in nearly-identical stride, yet Mitchell — arms a bare fraction of a degree off vertical — seems to be walking normally. Lipni — arms hanging, even dangling — has a certain ghoulish air. A zombie? A vampire? That impression is heightened by the set of her shoulders, which may be a consequence of the lighting.

  • Clem Guttata

    I thought it was Jacko with a local dignitary on one of his “humanitarian” missions.

    I guess not.

  • Alan

    Wow. Hard not to read this image as something sinister. The shadow figure on the wall suggests a sniper to me, an assassin, and there’s no doubt who the target is – everyone is looking at him. The camera (which could just as well be a high tech weapon) is aimed right at his head. If you follow the line of the wall in the background, it takes you right to the target’s head as well. This image could easily have been done as a painting by Magritte. Bottom line: Mitchell is a dead duck.

  • bystander

    The very first thought I had?
    Ain’t we got game.

  • Julia Grey

    I *still* see the central figure as a casually dressed young man.
    See, here’s the difference between us. I immediately saw the figure as a woman, and then momentarily questioned myself, especially since my (non) knowledge of Israeli names gave me no clue.
    Perhaps what I absorbed subliminally at first glance was the shoes, although I think the hair looks a little too “styled” to be a man’s hair. I think we also expect governmental women to wear skirted suits and other kinds of obviously feminine or “proper” clothing when acting in a professional capacity.
    But perhaps the most persuasive “gender tell” in that first moment was her body language, which seems more graceful and –I don’t know how else to say it–”womanly” than we’d see in a man. Part of this feeling was my sense that she seemed to be literally “leading him on,” coaxing a smile, leaning in his direction, etc. In fact, at first I thought she was some kind of factotum from the protocol office, whose business it is to put official visitors at ease.

  • Inigo Montoya

    I’m with Alan. First impression? The shadow on the wall struck me as an assassin aiming a scoped weapon at the heads of the two principals. Very sinister.
    Aside from that, my impression is the principals look very awkward. Their arms are pointed straight down, completely disconnected from their walk. Livni’s head is poked forward like a turtle. Mitchell has a fixed smile and is looking into the darkness they’re walking into rather than at her.

  • kallen

    Huge looming shadow evokes the nebulous “world community” (large, faceless at times and still very much present) and is a reminder that so many people will be watching this new administration’s role in the Middle East. Also the role of the press, of course, in covering and shaping the reception of the events that are always unfolding in Israel.
    The lit wall extending back kind of in a haunting way reminds me of the Wailing Wall.
    The young aide that looks on is wringing his hands or cracking his knuckles perhaps out of nervousness? Worry of what Mitchell will bring? Just a nervousness in general? Apprehensive about having hope for peace or a fear of making concessions? Hard to tell.
    Pleasantries are being exchanged. The two are walking in step, perhaps a good first sign? Their dynamic seems like a normal way to treat a guest, she’s leading as the host and looking back as kind of a checking in. He is smiling, being receptive, a good guest. The darkness is eerie though. A reminder that diplomacy and the work of the government is never really done. It also recalls the 36 hour negotiations that Mitchell brokered in Northern Ireland. I doubt that this was the end of the evening and that plenty more work happened that night. While they don’t seem completely at ease with each other they certainly don’t seem adversarial.
    Also regarding gender and sex, I was aware that Livni is a woman and immediately recognized her and think not much of her dress. Maybe this a generational consequence given that I’m in my early twenties.

  • bigbalagan

    I am interesting in Tsipi’s political career, so I recognized her immediately—my first thought about her part of the image was, “great haircut”. George seems convivial but is moving in a quite different rhythm than Tsipi, although both seemed pretty relaxed, which is a sign of a good job on George’s part so far. Tsipi is the FM, of course, but she is also the correct first person to go to, so that improved my take on George’s motion through the picture. They are in front of what looks to me like a fortress, which is resonant with the situation. And the left side of the image is actually more like a cartoon than part of the image, like one of those massive shadows in a warner brothers cartoon portending a falling safe or entering monster. My eye was drawn back again and again to Tsipi’s posture. Their stride is matching, but her center of gravity seems so much lower, which I personally associate with good posture for martial arts (or ta’i chi!). Interesting that compared to some other commenters, I didn’t see the body guards as anything but background…

  • richard dent

    It’s the shadow that makes this something besides a routine photo. Most of the rest is just projection of one’s point of view.

  • jtfromBC

    George has such a captivating smile, I assume he is already familiar with this report
    Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement
    The defense establishment, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, steadfastly refused to publicize the figures, arguing, for one thing, that publication could **endanger state security or harm Israel’s foreign relations**. Someone who is liable to be particularly interested in the data collected by Spiegel is George Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, who came to Israel this week for his first visit since his appointment. It was Mitchell who authored the 2001 report that led to the formulation of the road map, which established a parallel between halting terror and halting construction in the settlements

  • Joe Radish

    George Mitchell looks relaxed a usual. His smile diffuses for me what is otherwise an ominous photo.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone see white phosphorous?

  • lytom

    Smiling and walking into a wall…
    One wonders about the instructions he has and how much of a “free” hand he has…

  • Tehran Azziz

    It looks like Tsipi is leading Mitchell off to the gallows or something! Impending doom!

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