Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tony Blair -- Mid-East Envoy

Tony Blair is appointed Middle East envoy.

This account, which is typical, says ---

“U.S. and Israeli officials welcomed the appointment, which had been expected. But reaction was cool in the Arab world, where Blair is viewed more skeptically because of his close alliance with Bush and the positions he took on the invasion of Iraq and the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Maybe. But Tony Blair's views on all these matters has always been far more nuanced than anything any American can say in public.

This is Tony Blair in Los Angeles, August 1, 2006 , in the middle of the Israel-Hazbollah fighting.

“MEPP” refers to “Middle East Peace Plan,” the so-called “road map”

"The question is: how do we empower the moderates to defeat the extremists?

"First, naturally, we should support, nurture, build strong alliances with all those in the Middle East who are on the modernising path.

"Secondly, we need, as President Bush said on Friday, to re-energise the MEPP between Israel and Palestine; and we need to do it in a dramatic and profound manner.

"I want to explain why I think this issue is so utterly fundamental to all we are trying to do. I know it can be very irritating for Israel to be told that this issue is of cardinal importance, as if it is on their shoulders that the weight of the troubles of the region should always fall. I know also their fear that in our anxiety for wider reasons to secure a settlement, we sacrifice the vital interests of Israel.

"Let me make it clear. I would never put Israel's security at risk.

"Instead I want, what we all now acknowledge we need: a two state solution. The Palestinian State must be independent, viable but also democratic and not threaten Israel's safety.

"This is what the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want.

"Its significance for the broader issue of the Middle East and for the battle within Islam, is this. The real impact of a settlement is more than correcting the plight of the Palestinians. It is that such a settlement would be the living, tangible, visible proof that the region and therefore the world can accommodate different faiths and cultures, even those who have been in vehement opposition to each other. It is, in other words, the total and complete rejection of the case of Reactionary Islam. It destroys not just their most effective rallying call, it fatally undermines their basic ideology.

"And, for sure, it empowers Moderate, Mainstream Islam enormously. They are able to point to progress as demonstration that their allies, ie us, are even-handed not selective, do care about justice for Muslims as much as Christians or Jews.

"But, and it is a big 'but', this progress will not happen unless we change radically our degree of focus, effort and engagement, especially with the Palestinian side. In this the active leadership of the US is essential but so also is the participation of Europe, of Russia and of the UN. We need relentlessly, vigorously, to put a viable Palestinian Government on its feet, to offer a vision of how the Roadmap to final status negotiation can happen and then pursue it, week in, week out, 'til its done. Nothing else will do. Nothing else is more important to the success of our foreign policy."

The centrality of Israeli-Palestinian peace was the second important rationale in Blair's appeal to Parliament, March 18, 2003 to join the coalition of the willing.

“Partners are not servants but neither are they rivals. I tell you what Europe should have said last September to the US. With one voice it should have said: we understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and WMD and we will help you meet it. We will mean what we say in any UN Resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily; but in return we ask two things of you: that the US should choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of re-starting the MEPP, which we will hold you to.

“I do not believe there is any other issue with the same power to re-unite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course there is cynicism about recent announcements. But the US is now committed, and, I believe genuinely, to the Roadmap for peace, designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today.

“All of us are now signed up to its vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestininan state….

“(I)f our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make them multilateralist? Or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism there could ever be. And what of the UN and the future of Iraq and the MEPP, devoid of our influence, stripped of our insistence?

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