Thursday, 10 September 2009

Tony - he's terrrrific!

In June 2007, Tony Blair’s excruciatingly long journey to resignation ended only to be shortly followed by the announcement that he would take on the role of Middle East Envoy on behalf of the Quartet (US, Russia, the UN and the EU).

The role, previously occupied by former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, is mainly concerned with matters to do with Palestinian governance, economics and security. Wolfensohn resigned from the position in under a year citing frustration with a lack of progress.

During his final Prime Minister’s Questions, Blair told MPs: "The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community – that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is a two-state solution."

Blair also claimed to have an “ambitious but achievable plan” to get the Middle East peace process back on track. Not to be a cynic, but in the ten years that Tony Blair was PM his foreign policy “plans” were somewhat less than inspiring and certainly nowhere close to achievable.

So what has Tony done in the past two years since being appointed Middle East Envoy? Well I’ll tell you what he certainly hasn’t done – he hasn’t made any official contact with Hamas who, despite the wishes of many, is still the democratically elected government of the Palestinians. He has yet to make any real progress in mediating between Palestinians and Israelis and he has, pathetically, only been to Gaza once during the past two years. He was also heavily criticized for being generally not there during Israel’s devastating attacks on Gaza in January 2009.

Actually, I'm being unfair. Tony does spend about one week per month in the Middle East. Living it up nicely in East Jerusalem he hobnobs with generals and journalists while eating olives and drinking Arabic coffee. And, the reason he has only made one very recent visit to Gaza was because of security concerns. It's not his fault, how could he have known Gaza was a dangerous place when he first took on the role?

One wonders why he would even take the job in the first place. It can't be the money because firstly he's doing it for free (despite claims by the Daily Mail that his role is actually costing the British taxpayer £400,000) and secondly Tony is actually doing very well post PM. His speaking engagements come with a price tag of £100,000, his real estate portfolio is prolific and his consultancy roles with JP Morgan and Zurich reportedly bag him six figure salaries each.

Could it be Tony just can’t let go of the limelight?

It's a mystery to me. What I do know is that Tony's done not such a terrific job over the past two years and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a gaping, bleeding wound with little hope for the future.

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