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Blair: Still At It [Kissing Bush’s Behind] After All These Years…or `Waltzing To War’.

July 21, 2007

Mustering up all that false modesty of which he is capable (which is considerable), Tony Blair graciously accepted his new assignment from the Bush Administration as top envoy to the Middle East Quartet (the US, Russia, EU, UN) with the following earnest tear-jerker:

“It is imperative that we succeed and I am prepared to try to help in what ever way I can. And I think that in the end that is the most important attitude for me to carry into this job and I also think that there is a real will and desire if people can find the right way forward to get to that two-state solution that people want and, just imagine for a moment, if this process were moving forward again, just think how much hope there will be.

You’d think there was something quite serious going on here, but fear not.

The Bush Administration is hoping that a British face can more effectively deepen the already existing wedge between Fateh and Hamas to further weaken the Palestinian movement into accepting an imposed rump state settlement.

This is something less than peace making.

The Bush Administration quickly laid to reset any illusions that the US (or the world) is embarking on serious Israeli-Palestinian peace making. Consider the following:

• Blair’s mission is carefully restricted to “imposing reforms on the Palestinian government”. Well said, and accurate
• To clarify that, Washington has already announced Blair will make no effort to end Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip. (and that’s an order!)
• Blair is to do nothing to curb settlement growth in the West Bank
• He is avoid any attempt to to push through an agreement on a final-status peace deal.
• He is not to have any dealings with Hamas, (without which there can not be any genuine peace process.) Indeed his first announcement was to reiterate the Quartet would have no involvement with Hamas, the winners of last year’s Palestinian elections.

To dampen hopes even further, and to alley the fear of AIPAC and the like, the Bush Administration tried to make crystal clear that what Blair is trying to organize is not a peace conference, just a meeting between the parties to discuss the terms of some future peace conference. This is precisely how the Oslo Process bogged down and went nowhere. Such an approach continues with what is now a well worn tradition of the U.S. putting all the pressure on the Palestinians to make reforms, none on Israel.

In short, it is little more than a charade packaged to give a bit of hope to a world desperate to end the conflict and wanting to see some progress. Bush made a few hopeful remarks back in 2002 about the need for a Palestinian state and then more or less let Ariel Sharon run US foreign policy toward the conflict till his stroke. As Bush’s presidency comes to an end, he wants to offset his legacy of having involved the United States in what is arguable, the greatest debacle of US foreign policy history, the occupation of Iraq, with the appearance of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Something else is at work here, usually not spelled out: Saudi pressure on the US to make progress on this issue. Pressuring the Saudi’s to take such steps is a growing domestic opposition movement that takes the form of a new generation of `little Osamas ‘.

What would be a serious alternative to the current charade? Sarah Roy, a researcher at Harvard, provides alternative themes worth considering:
1. Announce support for a Hamas-Fateh dialogue to revive a unity government and quietly open diplomatic contacts with Hamas. (It doesn’t have to be quietly -rjp)
2. Commit serious diplomatic muscle to restarting substantive Palestinian-Israeli negotiations
3. In cooperation with its Quartet partners – the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – convene a peace conference informed by the US commitment to a two-state solution.

And precisely because these suggestions are reasonable, and would represent a profound change in direction of U.S. policy, they are unlikely to even be considered. And once again in the name of peace-making, the Bush Administration is creating the condition to waltz into yet another war.

(for a good – somewhat longer – piece on the current situation, minus insights on Blair’s butt-kissing subservience to Bush, see Tony Karon’s recent piece `Bush’s Palestinian Fantasy’.

Another one – as usual, the political version of fine wine – read Avneri’s `Trap of Fools’)

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