Blair in the Middle East

” ‘Can he really intervene?’ asked Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian MP and former peace negotiator. She said the Palestinians did not need help building up their institutions. ‘We need third party involvement to achieve peace, to curb Israeli measures, to end the occupation and tobuild a state.’ ” Source Guardian 28/6/2007.
Just who’s agenda does the seemingly sudden appointment of Mr Blair as Middle East envoy represent? If there was an identifiable reason for Blair leaving office it was Iraq compounded by the Lebanon. Palestine though remained in the background even though at the end of the day it is the most pressing and crucial of all issues. “Success” in Northern Ireland has been remarked on, even though there has been a lot of papering over of cracks. The insistence of the Orange Order carrying on with marching breaks through the paper with continuing belligerence and deliberately provocative acts. In many ways it looks as if Paisley has it his way. However Sinn Fein have long realised that the ballot box is moving in favour of a rather different future.
It is pointed out that Blair is carrying baggage in the Middle East. I remember his radio broadcast from Jerusalem when he shared a platform with Ariel Sharon. He seemed to share more than a platform and sounded patronising to a degree to the Palestinians. ” Be good children” he seemed to be saying. Well there are many trying extremely hard to be “good” and fight against an implacable enemy with non-violent resistance. The response to that is anything but non-violent and provocative in the extreme. Daily.
Yasser Arafat was President of Palestine and a member of Fatah, yet Blair, who called into Ramallah following his funeral, refused to lay a wreath and barely bowed his head. Many were outraged. Then Blair hosted a conference in London inviting Palestinians but not Israel. It seemed to go nowhere, how could it? Once again it appeared patronising. Israel of course were very pleased at being off the hook as they were when they invaded the Lebanon. Death and destruction, as in Iraq, passes without comment.

Another question arising from this appointment is how it pre-empts Brown from entering a different strategy with Blair already there larger than life. It really muddies the waters if Brown was intent on building a new foreign policy. True there hasn’t been much sign so far of anything different, but if it wasn’t a significant issue in a selection contest for leadership it certainly was in that for Deputy, even if Ms Harman is now spinning round.

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