OR WHAT WAS THE QUARTET THINKING OF...
"I welcome Tony Blair's appointment as the Quartet's Representative to the Middle East. For the past decade, former Prime Minister Blair has been at the forefront of International efforts to promote peace and reconciliation around the world from Northern Ireland to the Balkans and beyond. He is a renowned statesman, respected and listened to by the international community. He will bring tremendous dedication to efforts to create viable and lasting Palestinian government institutions, strengthen the Palestinian economy, and establish law and order for the Palestinian people. I look forward to working closely with him in his new capacity".
Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, 27 June, 2007 in www.state.gov/secretary.
"Appointing Tony Blair as special envoy for Arab-Israeli peace is like appointing the Emperor Nero to be the chief fireman of Rome".
Rami G. Khouri, "A Peace Envoy we can do Without", [Beirut] Daily Star in www.dailystar.com.lb.
It has been announced today, that one) Mr. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, has resigned as the First Lord of the Treasury aka Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; two) has been appointed at the behest of the United States Government as the Quartet's [USA/EU/Russia/UN] special envoy for the Arab-Israeli peace process (see the announcement in www.Reuters.com). What is one to make of this announcement? Several responses are possible: one, ribald or near-ribald ridicule of the type seen above, especially by Arab commentators and their sympathizers. For them, and, it must be said rightly so for the most part, Blair in his time as Prime Minister as it concerns the Near East, has been merely an adjunct to American power and purposes. For such opinion, id est, the vast majority of 'public opinion' in the Arab World, the whole 'Yo Blair', incident of last summer, was indicative of the fact that under Blair, the UK has indeed become merely America's poodle, rien plus. From 'Operation Desert Fox' of 1998 to the Lebanon War of 2006, and this year's diplomatic boycott of Hamas, the UK had almost continuously towed the American diplomatic line again and again. The time when the UK would pursue or even be seen to pursue a line independent of the Americans in the Near East (or indeed anywhere...) seems to have become a thing of the past under Blair. Consequently, someone of so little independence from Washington and its Israeli ally hardly deserves being taken seriously as an impartial 'mediator'.
The other side of the coin, such as it is, claims that merely the fact that Blair is willing to undertake the heavy burden of being the Quartet's Peace Envoy; especially at the behest of the USA, is an important indication the the Americans are again interested in moving forward, in a serious way with the peace process. And, that Blair himself would scarcely undertake the thankless task of being Near East mediator, unless he had some undertaking from Bush, Rice, et. al., that the Americans are willing to proceed with moving forward the peace process. Even one assumes to the point of exercising some occasional pressure on the Israeli government. Of course on the face of it, the endorsement of the appointment by the American Secretary of State is more of a reason to be skeptical at best, about the underlying rationale for the appointment. Certainly there is nothing in the past ten years to indicate that Blair would ever be willing to exercise either the independence of judgment or decision, which being a mediator seriously interested in pursuing a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, it is the case that Blair has, albeit behind the scenes been greatly interested in some forward movement in the peace process, since 2002, if not before. Unfortunately, he has singularly failed to see that to move forward, necessitates active and continuous pressure, diplomatic, economic, moral pressure on Tel Aviv, and its American Ally. Perhaps it is the case, as the UK weekly the Economist, seems to argue, that Blair, eager to wipe out the stain that the Iraq debacle has brought to his reputation and legacy, will for once actively and energetically exercise his undoubted gifts for a truly positive purpose. And, that his American backers will let him do so (see: "No Rest for Tony Blair", in www.economist.com) . For the sake of peace in the Near East, one can only hope so.