Comment at end
10th March 2010
Sky’s Dominic Waghorn: “We can expect to see more of the former prime minister here. Despite scepticism about his commitment at the beginning of his appointment he has stuck with it and is to be rewarded for his efforts. The Obama Administration wants to see his role formally widened from just the economic to the political as well.”
Palestinians have today described Israel’s recently announced plans to buid 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem as “catastrophic”. And members of the Arab League are said to be threatening to withdraw their support for negotiations.
Against this backdrop the USA’s vice president and Tony Blair sat down for a breakfast meeting today. Mr Blair will need ALL his negotiating skills to keep these talks on track. Especially so if this BBC report on the Middle East press’s ‘cool’ reception to the US’s vice-president is anything to go by. On the other hand more can often be done behind closed doors in sensitive negotiations, where all sides are upping the anti. (Read Sky report here, below.)
The day before Mr Blair met with Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Excerpt:
The Spokesman said that the meeting addressed the latest developments on the efforts to set in motion the political process between the Palestinian and the Israeli, in light of the latest resolution of the Arab Peace Initiative Follow up Committee which agreed that the Palestinian side holds indirect talks via the American mediator, and that the situation be re-evaluated early next July.
Joe Biden continued his soured visit to Israel this morning with breakfast with Tony Blair.
They presumably compared notes on dealing with frustrations caused by their Israeli guests. Biden issued a sharp rebuke of Israel last night for announcing 1600 new settler homes north of Jerusalem.
The debate in the Israeli media this morning focuses on whether this was cock-up or conspiracy. Either the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew about the announcement ahead of time, or he didn’t. In other words either he personally oversaw a diplomatic kick in the teeth to his honoured guest, or in the words of his political opponents, he has lost control of his cabinet.
Neither looks great but he can look on the bright side. Intentionally or not his government has put down another marker. Jerusalem’s sovereignty is not up for negotiation and Israelis will continue building in and around the city a regardless.
Tony Blair’s take on it transcends those arguments. A source close to the envoy tells me he told the vice president the episode simply highlights the need to move to direct negotiations.
He drew a parallel with his peace making experience in Northern Ireland. Back then there were ‘these sort of problems constantly, with both sides questioning the good faith of the others. All these things have a significant impact outside negotiations.’
The solution he says then as now is direct negotiations with both sides committed to resolving their conflict.
We can expect to see more of the former prime minister here. Despite scepticism about his commitment at the beginning of his appointment he has stuck with it and is to be rewarded for his efforts. The Obama Administration wants to see his role formally widened from just the economic to the political as well.
If the Americans can get the peace process back in the air, Blair and US envoy George Mitchell will be trying to keep it there.
- ‘Are peace talks doomed to fail before they start?’ Thoughtful, if pessimistic article by Carlo Strenger at Haaretz
- And, just to add fuel to the fire, both Israel and Syria today announced nuclear power ambitions. Excerpt: ‘Charges of double standards could now intensify — making it harder for Israel to argue that Iran must open all its facilities to world scrutiny.’
- Biden meets Palestinian PM Fayyad in West Bank – Fayyad: “it’s damaging for sure“
- YNetNews on the background and issues around America’s present commitment
- France condemns East Jerusalem constuction permit
- Turkish PM Erdogan says Hamas should be involved in peace talks
- Yesterday, on his arrival in Israel, Joe Biden condemned the construction decision
Tags: american, Carlo Strenger, Dominic Waghorn, face to face negotiations, George Mitchell, Haaretz, Israel, Joe Biden, Middle East peace talks, Northern Ireland, Obama, Palestinian, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Sky, Tony Blair