He inherited two wars, a banking crash and years of inaction on the world's most intractable dispute – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is it any wonder that, eight months on, Barack Obama's outstretched hand has still to pluck its first fruit? And yet movement is so slow, it barely registers. The US special representative George Mitchell has conducted five tours of the region. Last week he shuttled back and forth between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli prime minister's office seven times.