Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Quagmire Antennae

Most politicians would appear humbled after the setbacks that they have encountered in Iraq following their own wilful manipulation of intelligence. Such politicians would not be Blair.

Where Blair always set himself apart from Bush was his belief, encouraged by the Arabists of the Foreign Office and the anti-Zionist sympathies of his own left-wing, that the problems of the Middle East would be cured by the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This has proved a foundation stone for his championing of the peace plan and road map: two metaphors that have almost been abandoned as the intifada has strengthened apace.

Now that Bush has been re-elected, he is a president more welcome than his irresolute rival for defending sovereignty and undermining international institutions (like the French). Blair, as his closest ally, intends to use some of the capital provided by the American people, to bring peace to the Middle East. As always, Blair's vaunted efforts are constrained by the policies set out by the White House. On Breakfast with Frost, Bush Senior set out the groundrules:

I think there is an opportunity and I think Tony Blair was heard loud and clear in Washington about what he was calling for," the elder Bush told the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Breakfast with Frost" program. "There is a real opportunity. People forget that this president is the first president to call for a Palestinian state."Blair is correct, 100 percent correct. And I think he will find the president a willing and able partner, particularly if there is a change in leadership in the PLO that we can deal with more openly and with more confidence," said Bush.

If the Palestinians can organise themselves, abandon terrorism and coalesce around a leadership prepared to negotiate a peace settlement with the Israelis, then they will get the backing of the US government. Watch three fat pigs fly over Jerusalem.

If Blair thinks that his latest wheeze is better than a short term press release to shore up his image on Labour's left, ("Look at me!, I care about the Palestinians! Let's make noise and show my independence from Bush"), I'd be surprised. If he does indulge in the fantasy that he could make a difference, then this si more evidence that he loves quagmires: political, military and diplomatic.

Bottom line: this is none of Britain's business. The Arabs wish to throw the Israelis into the Sea and the Israelis don't wish to go. Throw in the history of a few wars and I can see how Jews coudl become paranoid and feel "under siege" from a world that would weep crocodile tears over a second Holocaust. Perhaps Blair could emote on their behalf.

(23.05, 9th November 2004)


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