Blair is the wrong man for the job
Mahdi Elmandjra, Richard Falk, Johan Galtung, Jan Hjarpe, Farhang Jahanpour, Jorgen Johansen, Annabel McGoldrick, Yusra Moshtat, Hisae Nakanishi, Jan Oberg, Jonathan Power, Annette Schiffmann, Soren Sommelius, Christina Spannar, Hakan Wiberg, Associates of TFF.*
July 12, 2007
We are appalled by the insensitivity associated with the appointment of Tony Blair as Special Envoy of the Quartet, assigned the task of moving Israel and Palestine
- There exists a situation of growing urgency in the Palestinian territories, particularly Gaza is teetering on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. The policies pursued by Israel, the US, and the EU since Hamas prevailed in the January 2006 elections have heightened tensions and brought suffering to the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza. An effective envoy must be prepared to talk with Hamas leaders, and to explore their proposals for reducing tensions, including a ten-year truce with Israel.
- Tony Blair is ill-suited for this job for a variety of reasons. His advocacy of the disastrous Iraq war and the sanctions regime that preceded it should itself have disqualified him. Blair was also supportive of Israel during the war in Lebanon in 2006. Thus, he lacks the necessary moral authority to address these issues in a positive manner.
- There are additional reasons why any British diplomat would have questionable credibility in the Middle East and specifically with the Palestinians. Britain failed the Palestinian people historically by issuing the Balfour Declaration, by its way of administering the Palestine mandate, and in the recent past by its partnership with Israel and the US, lending support to one-sided power policies instead of much needed impartial conflict-resolving diplomacy.
- Blair seems to be such an odd choice that we must ask why he was ever considered? Whose interest might benefit? After all, there are several qualified candidates such as former UN SGs like Kofi Annan and Boutros-Boutros Ghali or, say, Federico Mayor, Mary Robinson, Lakhdar Brahimi, Mikhail Gorbachev or Sadako Ogata.
- It is particularly regrettable that the UN, as member of the Quartet, will be represented by a person whose policies have flagrantly violated international law and all the main norms of the UN Charter. Did SG Ban Ki-moon voluntarily accept such an envoy or was he pressured to accept Blair who can certainly not claim to represent “we, the peoples”?
- The selection of Blair signals that leaders of the West are only sensitive to elite opinion. Diplomats and commentators agree that Blair is someone that government leaders will gladly meet but that he is loathed by citizens throughout the Arab world and in Iran. To ignore the attitudes of millions of citizens exhibits indifference to the values and spirit of democracy. Such an affront to the Arab world is a recipe for failure in terms of mediation, democracy and peace.
- The appointment of Blair makes it appear that spin, charisma and deceit and the marketing of a policy today are more important than genuine policy-making and constructive, trustworthy diplomacy.
- We wonder how Blair was chosen for this very important job? Who suggested him? Who had the authority to decide? Was it fair? Was it expressive of any kind of international democracy?
- A responsible diplomatic process would have been more open and secured the choice of someone who has experience and knowledge of conflict analysis, mediation techniques and nonviolent conflict resolution, a person who can be perceived as truly impartial and able to empathise with all sides. And no envoy or mediator can hope to succeed unless specialists with expertise and experience in such methods are included in his advisory team.
The authors are Associates of TFF, The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, in Lund, Sweden, www.transnational.org
© TFF & the author 1997 till today. All rights reserved.
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