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16th May 2011
Yesterday, after some quiet diplomatic work in the light of fast-moving circumstances in the region, the Israelis agreed to pass tax moneys to the Palestinians – [Cash transferred]
Also yesterday there was violence on Israel’s border. It comes as Palestinians marked the ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe of Israel’s founding in 1948. Sky News (video) reports that – “At least 16 people have reportedly been killed after Israeli troops opened fire on protesters on the country’s borders with Lebanon, Syria and Gaza”.
Some might suggest that deaths on such a day, in such a region, at such a time as this were inevitable when confrontation is added to the heady mix. Palestinians might have known that the Israelis were never likely to stand by and watch in silence while their borders were rushed and breached, and not only from one direction.
But, back to the good news.
At the Jerusalem Post another report says that ‘An official in Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s office said they had been informed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Quartet envoy Tony Blair that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had approved the transfer.’
Again this may well have been inevitable, given the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the recognition of Hamas as legitimate by some states and thus no longer a terror organisation, and given the strong likelihood that by September a Palestinian unified state may well be recognised by many countries regardless of any Israeli/Palestinian agreement.
You may recall that less than two weeks ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Quartet’s representative on Israeli/Palestinian issues Tony Blair were said to be “pressuring” Israel to release the tax money. The reason for initially withholding it? Fear that if Hamas could touch the money it would use it for nefarious purposes, against Israel.
In this complicated political landscape it is far from easy to work out the niceties and exactitudes of the positions taken by all those concerned. But according to this site, “apparently” the Israeli Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, decided to withhold the money that Israel collects on behalf of Palestine on his own accord. […] Steinitz reportedly has backing from Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, but both the Defense Minister and Foreign Ministry are reportedly outraged that Steinitz did not consult them on the diplomatic and security aspects.”
Earlier this month Israel had blocked the routine handover of about 300 million shekels ($88 million) in customs and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinians after PA President Mahmoud Abbas struck a unity deal with Hamas.
This followed much pressure on the Israelis, but also much hand-wringing in the USA –
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said at that time he would only allow the transfer after receiving guarantees the money would not reach Hamas.
As the Middle East peace sticks then stalls, as Palestinians demonstrate with forseeable consequences on the borders of Israel and Lebanon, as George Mitchell – the US Middle East envoy, on whom so many American hopes were pinned – resigns, has anyone noticed a constant?
The constant is Tony Blair.
After almost four years in the job the former British Prime Minister is still the Quartet’s representative for Israel/Palestinian issues. In fact he is now the ONLY diplomat of international standing working in the region on these issues.
I thought I’d just mention it in the passing, just in case our mainstreamers forget to point it out.
This MSNBC report too seems to forget about Mr Blair. In its rush to explain that envoys mean and matter little it somehow forgets that Blair was more important than Mitchell in Ireland and ultimately in the Balkans. In its desire to suggest that envoys mean little, its report, focussing on former US envoys has this:
‘It may also have had to do with Mitchell’s failure to truly get his groove with these rough-and-tumble protagonists: He was an envoy of the type who listens and facilitates — not the kind who takes a position and twists arms.
But some say that Mitchell — skilled and experienced, with a Northern Ireland peace deal to his credit — was simply impeded by the fact that the current crop of Israeli and Palestinian leaders simply wasn’t ready.
The idea, in a wider sense, is that middlemen cannot do magic: for a deal to be possible, the stars must first align.
“Without the political will (by the parties), no mediator could manage to bridge the gaps,” said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. negotiator and public policy scholar at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank. “You could have invited Moses, Muhammad and Jesus and they would not have been able to do it right now.”‘
My response to this? If the political will of the parties are not there right now, it will never be. if they are not “ready” now, they will never ever be.
Daniel Antal highlights Blair’s position:
‘When Sen. Mitchell, the Middle East envoy of the Obama administration resigned on Friday, I immediately asked ‘what is Tony Blair doing’? In the time-frame of a single weekend, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has regained its importance in the Middle Eastern region. If the EU countries want it or not, they will have to play their part in the most complex international terrain and in the absence of Sen Mitchell they may have to rely on the services of the former British prime minister.’
And not only is Blair the only influential international statesman still working there, he has made steady but under-reported progress in the almost four years he has been in the job.
If he hadn’t been making progress satisfactory to all sides, do you think he’d still be there? Do you think President Abbas, PM Fayyad, Israeli PM Netanyahu would have hesitated to offer to drive him back to the airport? All of them? Or even one of them?
1. This article, “Why George Mitchell failed”, by TAWFIK HAMID is well worth a read. Described as an Islamic thinker and reformer, and a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt, he was a member of the terrorist organization JI with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who later became the second-in-command of al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. http://www.tawfikhamid.com
Excerpt: [Remember this writer is NOT an Israeli] Wikipedia
“Obviously, it’s impossible to solve a problem without addressing and treating its true cause. Approaching the Arab-Israeli conflict from the perspective that it is about land, so that giving more land to the Palestinians will solve the problem, is a failed endeavor.
Israel has already given Egypt the whole of the Sinai, and got nothing in return except a cold peace and rising anti-Semitism in the country. Similarly the disengagement from Gaza did not magically lead to a decline in the wave of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.”
2. On 5th May Tony Blair visited the holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem
3. Tony Blair has recently participated in a TV advertisement with Benjamin Netanyahu, reminding us, and the new Arab democracy applauders that Israel is a democracy for all.
- Tony Blair, Quartet Representative, official website
- Video – Ad Hoc Liaison Committee focuses on Palestinian state building
4. Beirut Spring – “Today’s deaths were not about the Nakba”
Upcoming post: ‘Any Questions? Is Tony Blair a “very, very bad man”. QTWTAIN’
Sign the Ban Blair-Baiting petition here
I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)