Even before the bombs hit London at the end of last week, everything came raining down on Tony Blair.
At the beginning of May, he won the general elections. In the middle of June, he started a campaign against Jacques Chirac and the outdated world of Brussels. At the beginning of July, he assumed the presidency of the European Union and the leadership of the G8.
Faced with the anachronism of continental Europe, the Franco-German crisis and the American administration's difficulty in redefining itself since November 2004, Blair became a preeminent global player. Energetic, creative and levelheaded, Blair is the only world leader who combines vision and morals, political dexterity and a sense of mission.
Thus, even without the 7/7 terror attack, the British prime minister would have turned his attention to the Middle East. He would not have missed the opportunity of his precious six months at the official helm of Europe. He would have rolled up his sleeves and started twisting the arms of the obdurate regional pugilists.
The terror attack in London made this expected move inevitable. Now that its capital has been hit, the United Kingdom cannot take cover behind the issue of its debt to Africa. It will not be able to suffice with the issue of global warming. The wounded British lion will be forced to roar in the face of the continued bloodshed in Iraq and the terror that has hit Kings Cross. It will roar from the river to the sea. It will roar in the land that it itself granted to the Zionist enterprise 88 years ago.
Put on your stopwatches: No more than a month will pass after disengagement and Tony Blair will have his say. Even before we get to Balfour Day, Blair will put on the table a new idea for moving the Israeli-Palestinian process forward. Only one question remains: Will Blair's new idea be practical or utopian; will it be realistic or sanctimonious; and will he take us back to the patterns of the old peace process, or will he propose to us a new and bold way?
Blair must not take a faulty step. The responsibility on his shoulders is too great. Even if he retires in two or three years and leaves 10 Downing Street to Gordon Brown, his imprint on the Middle East could leave its mark for years. As a man of religious belief, and with a feel for history, Blair is likely to be aware of this. Therefore, he cannot make a false move. He must not table an idea that is not full-fledged. The key must be as follows: a great idea on one hand, and measured steps on the other. A clear and resolute vision of two states. And a cautious and painstaking path.
Between the unacceptable route of the status quo and the current treacherous route of the final-status agreement, Blair must carve out a third way. A way that ensures that, together with an end to the Israeli occupation, there will be a Palestinian turnaround. A way that makes clear that, parallel to the evacuation of settlers, a rehabilitation of refugees takes place. A way that promises that, parallel to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Palestinian recognition is reached, with international guarantees, of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
Recognition of a Jewish state is a keystone. Without such recognition, there cannot be true peace here. Without such recognition, there can be no moral basis to any process of reconciliation. Without such recognition, the Israeli public will not agree to take upon itself the risks that it will be obliged to take in the era after disengagement. Only if Tony Blair can lead the international community, the Arab world and the Palestinians to recognition of a Jewish national home will he be able to get the moderate Israeli public on his side. Only if he embraces the Israelis during the trauma they are about to undergo this summer, and only if he grants real guarantees for their future immediately after that, will he be able to cause them to give up the reins of occupation.
It was the Balfour Declaration that gave shape to this land in the 20th century. Although many Arabs and not a few British citizens had reservations about it, it had a deep moral basis. And now it is time for a second Balfour-type declaration. A declaration that will recognize both the rights of the Palestinians in this land and the right to existence of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
Tony Blair is the only statesman who can make this new declaration. If he phrases it well and if he proceeds cautiously along the drawn-out process of realizing it, the imprint he will make in this land will be deep. A true British seal of realistic morality.
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