Better late than never. From time to time, there were protests from Palestinians against Tony Blair continuing as the “peace envoy” of the Quartet – the UN, US, Russia and EU – charged with the task of making efforts toward settling the Arab-Israeli dispute, but nobody listened to them. They were not consulted on his appointment though everybody knew his actions and policies will prove detrimental to Palestinian interests.
The fact is US and Israel felt obliged to Blair for supporting the US in its ill-advised Iraq invasion. They knew his backing for President George W. Bush’s war cost him his job. So they can’t leave him in a lurch. No more proof is needed for this quid pro quo than the fact that Blair was appointed peace envoy the same day as he lost his position as UK’s prime minister.
Now some retired British diplomats and British politicians still active in the field and US-Israeli public figures have joined a campaign calling for Blair to be removed from his role as the Middle East envoy. They have addressed a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Cathy Ashton, European Union’s foreign policy chief, spelling out their demand.
Signatories include Prof. Noam Chomsky, Sir Richard Dalton, UK’s former envoy to Iran, Sir Oliver Miles, former UK ambassador to Libya, Peter Oborne, writer and journalist, Professor Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian, Clare Short, former UK secretary of state for international development.
As Sir Oliver Miles said, “Tony Blair is the wrong man in the wrong job.” Wrong because it is an outrageous monstrosity to appoint a person who, with Bush, is responsible for the nonstop bloodshed in Iraq as a peace envoy. This man also happens to be someone who has closely identified himself with Israeli interests. “When it comes to security, I am one hundred percent on Israel’s side”, he said a few days after the Mavi Marmara tragedy in 2010 in which nine Turkish citizens were killed as a result of an Israeli military operation on a humanitarian aid ship to Gaza which is under an Israeli blockade. How could anyone expect him to be fair or impartial?
He has been neither. To avoid putting pressure on Israel, whether it is Jewish settlements in occupied territories or the stalled peace negotiations, Blair devised the concept of “economic peace.” The underlying idea was Palestine has to be economically viable before it became a sovereign state. How can a people under occupation and living under apartheid laws and policies and whose movements are severely restricted achieve a robust economy?
Blair knew this as everyone else but then he wanted to avoid the real issue which is the repression and misery of the occupation.
Seven years on there are still over 500 checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank. Israel continues to build settlements that are illegal under international law. Blair has done nothing to ease the inhuman blockade of Gaza. He attacked the Palestinian leadership’s decision to seek UN recognition of the Palestinian state with a vigor worthy of a Likud politician.
What Blair should have done is to persuade Israel to accept the most generous compromise ever offered by Arabs to the Jewish state during their 2002 Beirut summit: Full Arab recognition of the State of Israel and normalization of relations in return for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. This was the best way for atoning his Iraq crimes. The fact that the latest anti-Blair movement was launched after his recent attempt to “absolve himself” of any responsibility for the death and destruction in Iraq shows that Blair is incorrigible. Whether the international community should leave the most intractable of the 20th century’s problem in the hands of such a person is the issue raised by the campaign.