Some say that making the second most hated man in the Muslim world, Tony Blair, the envoy to the region with the highest Muslim population in the world, is like making a former Grand Imperial Dragon of the KKK a liaison to the black community. If Blair sticks to his pro-American roots he will be as much use as Middle East envoy as an indoor wind-farm. Current American policy is, as usual, exactly the same as Israel’s policies for dealing with the Palestinians and Arab states, favouring Abbas’ Fatah and trying to isolate and squash (more popular because they are more militant) Hamas.
Blair brokered the Northern Ireland peace process by realizing that peace would only last if all parties were involved in negotiations.
So if Blair realizes that his pro-Americanism was responsible for his fall from grace, which I think he must, his personality and character dictating that he seek to do well in his new job, should mean he will start going against America and applying the same principles to the Middle East as he did to Northern Ireland.
I hope he does so soon. This week, U.S. foreign secretary Condoleeza Rice has said “there will be a Palestinian state” and there is talk of U.S. President Bush pushing both sides to find an agreement before he leaves office early 2009. Israel’s Prime Minister Olmert said he thought it was necessary to pull out of the West Bank and made Abbas an offer to discuss the principles of a Palestinian state, such as its institutions and government – leaving final status issues such as borders and refugees to the end of negotiations.
This just days after Israel released 250 Fatah prisoners from its jails, was undoubtedly another attempt to bolster support for Abbas’ new emergency cabinet currently controlling the West Bank, but also a possible sign that Israel is realizing the occupation can’t go on forever.
There is much hype about the planned peace conference later this year, scheduled to see all the major players, Abbas, Olmert and leaders of the neighbouring Arab states, everyone except Hamas. Some would ask why Hamas would be needed; if an agreement were reached surely the Palestinians would force Hamas to go along with it?
Fatah have lost all credibility in the eyes of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian people don’t trust Abbas, any agreement would be met with scepticism. Palestinians would think he had betrayed them behind the scenes, in order to reach a favourable deal and line his pockets.
Also, for any deal Israel will need to give up control of the land taken in the 1967 war, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, creating a Palestinian state therein. Although a land-swap agreement where Israel gives back some of its land in order to keep Palestinian land where it is thought to be necessary for security or to encompass settlement blocs. Israel agreeing to this will hinge on the Palestinians guaranteeing Israel security. Without Hamas on board they would likely wage a terror campaign throughout the negotiations, as we saw during the Oslo process. This would prevent the Palestinians making any such guarantee.
What’s more, Israel knows that the Palestinians can’t guarantee their security unless all the parties are behind any cease-fire or peace-process. So, their current attempts to prevent Hamas from taking part in any thing democratic or peaceful back-up those that say Israel is trying to prevent peace.
On the bright side, if Blair manages to wangle Hamas and Islamic Jihad a seat at the peace conference table, a Palestinian guarantee of Israeli security can be believed. Obviously Israel won’t trust them but hopefully the international community and Blair will make them give the benefit of the doubt. What’s more if a deal is reached, it will have the trust and support of all Palestinians — who know Hamas won’t sacrifice their rights — making cessation of attacks even more likely.
With Northern Ireland, once thought to be the most intractable conflict, now enjoying peace and prosperity, hopefully Blair can shake off his American-poodles tail and end the world’s truly most-intractable conflict.