British manners and our own hospitality require us to welcome the Quartet's new special envoy to the Middle East politely. The fact that he is an impressive, charming and charismatic person makes this easier.
The image of Tony Blair sitting at the iron tables in the American Colony's stylized garden sipping afternoon tea with Cherie and their four children delights the imagination.
To these advantages we must add our deep appreciation of the man who brought peace to Northern Ireland, and now, upon retiring from No. 10 Downing Street, instead of going into private business has decided to help us and our neighbors. Such a senior figure is coming to Jerusalem. What can we say? Greetings.
But when the initial enthusiasm dies down, the high-level visitor should also be told: Go home, you are not the right man in the right place at the right time. Don't waste your valuable time and throw away your expectations, as they are bound to be disappointed. The attempt to lower expectations by saying Blair would deal only with "building institutions" in the Palestinian Authority and in economic matters changes nothing. His mission is doomed to failure.
First, history. For the past 60 years envoys have been visiting these parts. None of them has brought peace. They all went home bitter and frustrated, one was murdered. Since the first, Count Folke Bernadotte, to the last, James Wolfensohn, through Gunnar Jarring and others & they all came with good intentions and left empty-handed. There is no reason to think Blair would fare any differently.Blair's record does not work to his advantage. His historic triumph in Northern Ireland will not help the "Bush poodle." Whether poodle or Doberman, Blair has been marked as a lackey of the United States in Europe and in sending British troops to fight alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
George Bush's international failures are also Blair's. Blair's beguiling smile cannot mitigate his responsibility for the state of the world and for the pointless bloodshed fanned by the fatal Bush-Blair duo. Just as nobody would dream of expecting Bush, who is obstinately preventing any progress with Syria, to act for peace in the Middle East, nobody would expect his all too loyal ally to do so. Would it occur to anyone to appoint Bush, on his retirement, as an envoy of the Quartet? Of course not. The same goes for his partner.
Blair cannot be an honest broker. Official Israel can be pleased with his appointment, but this is not enough. The man who was an active partner to the policy of boycotting the Palestinian unity government, which was established after democratic elections - a boycott that contributed to the military coup in Gaza - is not beginning his mission with clean hands. A man who does not intend to have any contact with Hamas cannot make peace.
Nor can the declared, more modest goal of his mission - building institutions in the Palestinian Authority - be achieved while boycotting the representatives of half of the Palestinian nation. Peace, Mr. Prime Minister, is made with bitter enemies, like the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, and Hamas, not only with amiable people who speak fluent English like Abu Mazen and Ehud Olmert. Boycotting the others in advance eliminates any chance for peace before you've even started.But Blair is on his way, and we must open a window for hope: perhaps staying here will change his mind. Perhaps he will discover during the time he spends here that the Israeli occupation is more brutal than he believed, that the only key to peace is in ending the occupation, that an authority under occupation has no real institutions and that he must talk to everyone, even Hamas.
Maybe then Blair will use his international status and connections in Washington to establish a truly just peace. If this happens, we will gladly apologize for the impolite headline of this article.
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