I envy the British for having Tony Blair as their leader. I recall my visits to Northern Ireland some 30 years ago. Parts of west Belfast - the focal point of clashes between Catholics and Protestants - looked worst than the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It seemed then that "the troubles," as the fighting there was called, would never be resolved.
Therefore, who would have thought that a day would come when the Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley, whose tongue spewed fire and sulfur, would one day sit in the same government with the Catholic terrorist Martin McGuinness? Who could have had such creative imagination as to foresee that a day would come when Northern Ireland would witness an end to the bloodletting?
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the one who with determination, with near religious fervor, stubbornly strove to reach a peace agreement, and who assigned Paisley and McGuinness the responsibility of managing Northern Ireland to bring an end to 400 years of oppression, political violence, religious extremism and indiscriminate terrorism.
I envy the British nation because the Israelis and the Palestinians need an Israeli Blair and a Palestinian Blair, who will lead us to the promised land of an end to the occupation, an end to the violence and to the terror, and on to a historic reconciliation.
To see Blair, Paisley, Gerry Adams and their friends, who up to a few years ago wanted, and even tried, to kill each other, shaking hands at a ceremony establishing the government, smiling, trading jokes and preaching peace - was to see a model for Israelis and Palestinians that today may appear to be a surrealist vision. It is like witnessing former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu sitting in a peace conference with the Hamas leader Khaled Meshal. That same Netanyahu who ordered the Mossad to assassinate Meshal in Amman 10 years ago for his role in ordering the murder of Israelis.
But not only because of the peace he achieved in Northern Ireland is Blair, who announced his resignation after 10 years as prime minister of Her Majesty's Government, worthy of praise. We can only wish for an Israeli Blair, who will know how to rescue the Labor Party from its decline so no longer will tears be shed for the loss of social democracy, which focuses on the working man (and woman) and seeks social justice and equality, and does not bow before the brutal capitalism, circa 19th century, which is hiding just behind the laundered words of free market competition, efficiency and globalization. This is more or less what Blair did when he regenerated Labor with the idea of a Third Way, following a decade and a half of Conservative rule shaped by Margaret Thatcher.
And why should there not be an Israeli Blair, whose concern for the weak and the poor would also determine his international agenda? A leader who will know how to convince the rest of the world of the need for international solidarity, as Blair did, who managed to gain support for forgiving $40 billion in debt owed by African states, and for grants from the World Bank and the International Monetary Bank.
Why should Israel not have a leader for whom the genocide in Darfur is no less important than an anti-Semitic incident in the world? Or a prime minister who issues a simple order to government institutions to stop tormenting the 350 Sudanese refugees who have sought a safe haven in the land of Holocaust survivors?
Blair's historical balance may be stained by acts of corruption and favoritism, the granting of titles to political donors and, above all, the unconditional support for U.S. President George W. Bush, who blinded him and misled his people into an unjust war in Iraq, which suggested shortsighted strategy. But despite this and other weaknesses, Blair proved to be one of the prominent leaders of this era.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now