Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Tony Blair Is a Disaster as Middle East Envoy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 9th January, 2009

tony-blair    When Tony Blair was appointed the Madrid Quartet’s Middle East Envoy 18 months ago, there was a certain amount of incredulity in the Muslim world. Here was the man who had swallowed the mendacious US line on Iraq and taken British troops into a war that was opposed by huge swaths of the British public. I, too, was critical of the decision, but once he was in post (operating out of a comfortable suite in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem), I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and see what, if anything, he could come up wth.

Well, tonight, in an extensive interview with Gavin Esler on BBC2’s ‘Newsnight’, Blair confirmed my worst suspicions. Commenting on the current Gazan situation, the former Prime Minister made not one word of criticism, let alone condemnation, of  the bloody Israeli assault on Gaza. He parroted the line out of Tel Aviv that all the blame should be placed on Hamas’s shoulders, and argued that only Hamas can extricate the people of Gaza from the current situation, essentially by capitulating. Despite being one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace agreement, in which negotiation with the IRA/Sinn Fein was a key element, he rejected even the idea that Western countries should talk to Hamas.

I have no truck for the rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and other radical Islamic groups based in Gaza. I have consistently denounced them and continue to do so. However, to peddle the Israeli myth that the root of the current crisis is the Hama rockets, as Tony Blair is doing, is an obscene distortion of reality. What about the Israeli blockade, which has been turning the Gaza Strip into what the Vatican has now referred to as a giant concentration camp? And what about the 40 years of illegal occupation of the West Bank and its ongoing settlement by Israelis, in total violation of international law?

The extremely effective Israeli PR machine is yet again trying to portray Israelis as the victims. But this just will not wash. Listen to the UN officials, one after another, being driven in their anguish to state openly that Israeli actions in Gaza — including the bombing of schools and the slaughter of civilians — may now prove to be war crimes.

Tony Blair must know this. He is not stupid or ill-informed. But he is the wrong man for the job as Middle East peace envoy. One of the first things Barack Obama should do when he takes office as US President in a fortnight’s time is to move to get him replaced.

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5 Responses to “Tony Blair Is a Disaster as Middle East Envoy”

  1. Robin Young said

    I think you are perhaps not quite right in suggesting that Blair failed to condemn Israeli actions – he did so explicitly. Nor did he entirely rule out talking to Hamas – indeed he made it pretty clear there were indirect links already via Egypt and Syria, the “people who do talk to Hamas”. And I did not hear him place all the blame on Hamas – he agreed with Esler that Hamas (and the people of Gaza) had to be offered a carrot as well as the stick to persuade them that there was an alternative way (other than violence) to achieve a viable Palestinian state, bringing together the West Bank and Gaza. Pretty dim hope at present perhaps, but in the Northern Ireland business (desperately protracted though that seemed) Blair did eventually succeed in getting where we wanted to be. His performance to date in the Middle East has certainly been underwhelming, but I do not take quite so dim a view of his efforts as you do on the basis of tonight’s interview.

  2. jonathanfryer said

    Blair did indeed mention Egyptian and other contacts with Hamas, Robin, but he made it clear that in his view it was not appropriate for the Quartet to talk to Hamas, which I think is a fatal flaw in his strategy. I must replay the interview, because you say he DID explicitly condemn Israeli actions, which is not what I heard at all. What I heard was him saying the situation was terrible, which is not quite the same thing. Anyway, it is good that a lively debate is occuring at this most critical of times.

  3. Penny De Abreu said

    Gavin Esler had to pursue Blair several times to get a definitive answer to the question put to him about talking to Hamas & as usual Blair continued to duck answering it & hid instead behind the Quartet’s policies i.e (not talking directly to Hamas) which is more than the Palestinians can do; they they are taking the full brunt of Israeli aggression they have nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. Reporters are barred from entering Gaza so the genocide goes on whilst the world looks on without effective intervention or the condemation of Israeli brutality. Do people really expect the Palestinians not to defend themselves?

    I was sickened to the core at the spectacle of listening & watching Tony Blair being interviewed last night & it reminded me of a similar such interview prior to the illegal invasion of Iraq. He should never of been appointed in the first place, what a blatantly insensitive thing to do! What he had to say was of no consequence, it had no substance.

    He should go forthwith I have no trust in his analysis of the situation whatsoever. Israel has & continues to be allowed to do whatever it likes, who afterall supports them with the latest arsenal of weapons, who gave them the nuclear know how? Violence breeds violence in whatever form, it does not bring peace & harmony & it never will.

    Israel is the occupier, the guilt of the Jewish plight in the World War 11 has nothing to do with the Arab people it lies fairly & squarely nearer to home.

  4. Carol Lall said

    I like blogs like this one, I am sure you put an effort on it to keep it up. Nice post, grazie mille . Ciao da Hotel Abano Terme

  5. grace newman said

    Tony Blair is a very dangerous man. Obama needs to do some regime change on Tony Blair.

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