When asked about his contribution to the peace process, Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy, former British Prime Minister and Bush poodle, can only point to the closing of a few Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and the gentrification of Ramallah. But then again peace is hard, to paraphrase our President and Hopemeister Barack Obama, who is a great Blair supporter.
Despite his glaring lack of success, it is said that Tony Blair revels in his role as envoy for the Quartet. Blair has apparently mixed his diplomatic position with his rapidly expanding business interests and some claim his private pleasure, in a manner which calls into question his ability to make any meaningful and unbiased contribution to resolving the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
This week officials of the Palestinian Authority (PA) have harshly and publicly criticized Blair for favoring the Israelis. There are persistent rumors that the PA will shortly call for the former British Prime Minister’s dismissal from his envoy post. However according to the BBC, a PA spokesperson, while admitting that there is great dissatisfaction with Blair, claimed that his removal was not a priority.
The BBC reports that Blair’s office says he has no plans to quit and that he remains committed to the peace process. On the positive side, one Palestinian official admitted that Blair was not as bad as Dennis Ross, President Obama’s top Middle East adviser.
Fadwa Hodali, writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, quotes senior Palestinians officials’ exasperation:
Blair, who has mediated between Israelis and Palestinians on behalf of the so-called Quartet, has taken “very aggressive positions against the Palestinians,” Palestinian lawmaker Bassam Salhi said in an interview today. “He has lost his credibility as a broker and mediator.”
Nabil Shaath, the chief Palestinian negotiator, last week told reporters that Blair “sounds like an Israeli diplomat sometimes,” according to the New York Times. Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said at a press conference in Ramallah today that he and colleagues are “looking into his actions and his role, and when the time comes we will issue our opinion.” He said Palestinians haven’t made an official request for Blair to be replaced.
Adrian Blomfield writes in The Telegraph:
“There is no one within the Palestinian leadership that supports or likes or trusts Tony Blair, particularly because of the very damaging role he played during our UN bid,” a … Palestinian official said.
“He is considered persona non grata in Palestine. Although we can’t prevent him from coming here, we can hopefully minimize the role he can play because he is not a mediator, he is totally biased on one side.”
Update: Blair defended himself against critics on India’s CNBC-TV18 on September 29. A summary of the Blair interview was published in The Telegraph.