The quiet Mid-East success for Tony Blair – the no song-and-dance man

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    23rd June, 2010

    AT last! They’re starting to get it right about Tony Blair.

    Tony Blair visits the Kerem Shalom crossing following the easing of the land-based blockade into Gaza, which he helped broker

    See the Office of the Quartet Representative here

    ‘Without making a great song and dance about it, Tony Blair has been going about the business of fostering goodwill and helping create an atmosphere in which peaceful intentions, if they exist, can be pursued. A high-ranking official of the Israeli foreign ministry has said: “When in another 100 years they write a book about the history of the Middle East, Blair’s name will proudly appear in it.” […]

    “He had humble objectives,” says the official. “He chose to deal with the micro, in areas that no one could imagine an international superstar of his caliber choosing to address. But he carried out all his missions. He took over projects that were going nowhere for years, accumulating dust [the sewage system in Gaza, tourism in Bethlehem, establishment of a second Palestinian cell-phone operator, among other things], and resuscitated them.”‘ (source)

    I could go on, but that’s enough I told you so for the time being, except to say this: In Chicago in 1999 Blair first spoke on the Doctrine of the International Community, repeated in April 2009. Prior to the Chicago speech he had already said that peace in the Israel/Palestine issue was central to ending terrorism.

    The reason it has been so quiet? The British press. Almost to a waste of good printing paper, they were, ARE hoping for him to fail. They are loath to ascribe any honest worthwhile motives in the Middle East peace process to Tony Blair. To do so, and to notice his successes would be to admit their own failures in vilifying his decision over Iraq. To admit that they were wrong and he was right. But that’s another story.

    The quote at the top also appeared in the article below by Neville Teller, a BBC Radio/Audio Dramatist/Abridger.

    I have cross-posted Mr Teller’s post in its entirety here.

    Gaza: Quiet Success For Tony Blair

    By Neville Teller, Eurasia Review

    There is, of course, more than one “Middle East envoy” at work on the problems of Israel-Palestine. George Mitchell, appointed by President Obama, heads the effort to bring Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table, and has just initiated the fourth round of so-called “proximity talks”, still on track despite the débacle of the Gaza freedom flotilla episode. Then there’s Tony Blair.

    It’s two-and-a half years since Tony Blair took up the role of envoy to the Middle East on behalf of “the Quartet” – the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. On the day he was officially confirmed in post – the 27th of June 2007, the very day he resigned as UK Prime Minister – the White House announced that both Israel and the Palestinians had signed up to the appointment.

    Other voices – not all of them from the Arab world – expressed varying degrees of scepticism about Tony Blair’s credibility as an impartial peacemaker, given the controversy already raging about Britain’s key role in the invasion of Iraq.

    But from the moment he took up the post Blair has stressed the need to create conditions that would allow the launch of credible negotiations. He seems to be pursuing a twin track towards this objective: on the one hand striving for a more unified position within Palestinian politics, and on the other building a viable future Palestinian state through encouragement of the West Bank economy.

    And indeed, over the past two years the West Bank’s economy has flourished. 2009 saw a growth rate of 6.8% according to the World Bank, some 6000 new jobs have been created, trade with Israel is up by more than 80% and agricultural exports by over 200%. But the World Bank, while recognising the considerable advances, is far from endorsing the idea that an economic boom is under way. Blair has been beavering away, largely behind the scenes, encouraging development himself not only in the larger picture, but also in the detail of individual projects – such as the sewage system in Gaza, tourism in Bethlehem, improving the mobile phone system in the West Bank.

    All this, as Blair told David Frost in an interview on Al-Jazeera TV, was done in the interests of creating a credible atmosphere in which to launch renewed peace negotiations – an enterprise that finally resulted in a positive outcome.

    So what part has Tony Blair been playing in this week’s developments on the Gaza scene?

    Middle East observers will have noted that in the days immediately following the Mavi Marmara incident, Tony Blair had no less than three meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Then, on Monday 14 June, he flew to Luxembourg to brief EU foreign ministers. Following that session, he told the Press that he hoped the blockade would “be eased within days.”

    The key, Blair said, “is to shift from a list of goods that are permitted into Gaza to a list of goods that are prohibited from entering, such as weapons and combat material, so that anything that is not on the list of prohibited items is allowed to enter. The prohibition on the entry of weapons and combat material should of course remain in place, and Israel is justified in seeking to check items that go into Gaza to ensure that such items are kept out.”

    Blair said that after holding intensive talks with Netanyahu, he believed that “Israel has agreed in principle to move to such a list.”

    And so it has proved to be, as PM Netanyahu has himself acknowledged.

    Without making a great song and dance about it, Tony Blair has been going about the business of fostering goodwill and helping create an atmosphere in which peaceful intentions, if they exist, can be pursued. A high-ranking official of the Israeli foreign ministry has said: “When in another 100 years they write a book about the history of the Middle East, Blair’s name will proudly appear in it.”

    Neville Teller is a contributor to BBC radio for many years, with his work including well over 250 abridgements for radio readings, some 50 radio dramatisations (7 reissued as audiobooks in the BBC Radio Collection), and about 200 audiobook abridgements for a variety of publishers including BBC Audiobooks, Chrome Audio, CSA Word, Heavy Entertainment, Hodder Headline, Macmillan, Naxos, Penguin, Random House and Time-Warner. He is a Guest Playwright for Shoestring Radio Theater, San Francisco ( which recently broadcast on Public Radio Satellite Network throughout the States a production of his dramatisation of “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. He is a past chairman of the Society of Authors’ Broadcasting Committee, and of the Contributors’ Committee of the Audiobook Publishing Association, and was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, 2006 “for services to broadcasting and to drama. For more information, his website can be found here.

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    But just in case you think it’s all going to be plain sailing, no pun intended, from now on in, there’s enough going on off stage to keep the World’s Favourite Diplomat busy for a long time. It’s a pity he has so many other things on his plate already.


    Just as it seems Iran and Lebanon (yes, those two stalwarts of human rights) are about to send more Aid ships to Gaza, Mr Blair reminds the world that there is no need.

    Israel’s army chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi has had less diplomatic words:  “We can’t let Gaza become an Iranian port,” he said speaking at a Jewish seminary in northern Israel. Earlier Tuesday Iranian Red Crescent officials said an Iranian aid ship is to leave the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas for a 14-day journey to Gaza at the end of this week, the ISNA news agency reported.

    Lebanese civilian groups are also planning to send two ships to the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian territory via Cyprus.

    “If a flotilla comes from Lebanon we will deal with it. If they are peaceful we will deal with it peacefully, if not we will deal with it as we need to,” Ashkenazi said.

    Also reported here, where Mr Blair said on the supplies to Gaza: “There is a constant battle here [against delegitimization] that anyone in Israel is well aware of. That’s why the smart thing is always to be on the ground that you can defend most easily.”

    And this is clearly MORE than just about infrastructure, or business building from the ground up –

    “Blair said he would now be exploring the possibility of bringing PA forces to help oversee land crossings into Gaza, and restoring the EU’s role at the Rafah crossing.”

    THIS is political involvement.

    Forces may well be needed, sooner rather than later.

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    One Response to “The quiet Mid-East success for Tony Blair – the no song-and-dance man”

    1. Goodwill Success I think | Mortgage and Insurance Says:

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