Talk about Newsnight

In the Middle East

‘Everyone wants a piece of Tony’

  • Richard Colebourn
  • 30 Jul 07, 11:01 AM

Tony Blair meets Israeli PM Shimon PeresJERUSALEM AND NABLUS: The headline is from the weekend edition of the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. At the end of Blair’s first week in the region as envoy for the Middle East Quartet, Israelis and Palestinians are now left contemplating the gap between hype and hope.

Blair said he felt a “sense of possibility”. But the grounds for optimism were left unexplained. Israel’s politicians were positive, adopting a strategy they openly describe as “hug him close”. Israel’s press is enjoying the publicity. “An international rock star is now dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” claims Haaretz. Palestinian reaction was more muted.

“This isn’t about Tony Blair, this is about us,” the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Salaam Fayad, told the BBC. And, at least according to Blair’s job description, he’s right.

The remit provided by the Middle East Quartet - made up of the EU, the United States, the UN and Russia - limits Blair’s role to Palestinian economic development, good governance and the raising of international aid. This isn’t about summits and peace negotiations, it’s about getting the Palestinians to a position where a viable state becomes plausible.

Khaled, a falafel seller in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, isn’t convinced about Blair’s commitment. “He’s a loser,” he told me. “He did nothing to help the Palestinians when he was Prime Minister, when he had power. Why do you think he can help now?”

Ashraf Misre from Nablus would like a piece of Tony’s time. He often struggles to reach his different businesses because of restrictions on movement imposed by the Israelis. They say checkpoints are necessary for security. But for Ashraf and his wife Nisreen, the unpredictability involved in travelling short distances is a basic impediment to building his business.

What Israelis and Palestinians seem unclear about is whether Blair will stick to his limited mandate. Will he get stuck into the problems faced by entrepreneurs like Ashraf or will he end up involved in mediation between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas?

Unlike in Northern Ireland, Blair may find his freedom of movement curtailed. There are many players on this stage. Briefings by the American government have been clear: they will take the lead on major diplomatic negotiations.

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There are so many bizarre aspects to Blair’s elevation it is hard to know where to start. Anyone with an eye to human psychology knows he has an obsessive need for status and adulation; hence this lofty perch will salve his wounded soul - for a while.
But what of the “Quartet”? If they have no inkling of “The Causes of Tony” do they know anything about anything? I am more and more convinced the Parish Council of the Global Village, far from being corrupt – you need a degree of competence to handle corruption – are simply inept. No wonder the world is in a mess. We need sage “elders” steeped in wisdom and we get Norman Wisdom. We know where Blair’s God Given Certainty took Britain; think what he might do with the Middle East!
If the underlying ethos holds, in time, he will move on leaving Palestine in flames and, with a Noble Prize for Effrontery, be put in charge of wrecking the World.
Who will rid us of this turbulent Priest?

In Israel (or the quoted paper), maybe. But as to anywhere else?

Even this blog has so far managed at time of writing but one post (two if this is added).

If the BBC News 24's gushing, Princess Diana-esque description of Gordon Brown's lawnwalk entrance at Camp David was anything to go by, I think the celebrity news machine has decided to move on to another.

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