Thursday, June 21, 2007

Recycling failures-First touted as possible World Bank Prez, possible EU Prez and now Middle East Czar. Can't they just these losers go home in peace?

Tony Blair as Middle East czar

By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Reports that US President George W Bush has asked outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to act as a special envoy for Middle East peace are adding to speculation that Washington plans to intensify peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, despite last week's takeover of Gaza by Hamas.

But whether those peace efforts will include Hamas, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose control over the Palestinian territories has been reduced to the West Bank, remains doubtful, as both Bush and Blair have been the most resistant to engaging Hamas until it recognizes Israel and renounces the use of violence.

Blair would serve as the special envoy for the Quartet, which consists of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States.

If the reports prove true and Blair accepts the post, the move is likely to mark a victory by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over more hawkish forces within the administration led by Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

The latter have repeatedly frustrated her efforts to press Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to bolster Abbas by dismantling illegal Jewish settlements and to ease travel restrictions on Palestinians.

While White House and State Department spokespeople, as well as the Prime Minister's Office in London, declined to confirm that Blair has been asked to take over the envoy post, they did little to dampen the speculation, which followed talks in Washington on Tuesday between Bush and Olmert.

"Obviously, Prime Minister Blair has been very active and deeply involved in Middle East peace issues throughout his prime ministership," Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, told reporters. "It would not surprise me if [Bush and Blair] have talked about what Prime Minister Blair would like to do following the end of his term ... but we don't have anything to announce today."

Nonetheless, the disclosure that Rice's top Middle East aide, David Welch, as well as Washington's ambassador in Tel Aviv, Richard Jones, had also met with Blair in London this week suggested that the reports were serious. The UN's former special envoy to the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, was also reportedly in the British capital to talk with Blair.

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, said his office is "aware of this idea" and that her boss is "very supportive of Prime Minister Blair and of his continuing involvement in the Middle East and the peace process".

The reports come just four days before the fourth anniversary of Bush's endorsement of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Until last week's events in Gaza, where Hamas routed security forces controlled by its secular rival, Fatah, the White House had planned to mark the anniversary by having Bush make a major policy address on the Middle East designed to boost Rice's efforts to offer a "political horizon" to the Palestinians.

Hamas' takeover of Gaza had reportedly placed those plans in doubt. But an announcement by Bush that Blair had agreed to act as chief envoy for the Quartet would provide the kind of renewed impetus for peace talks between Olmert and Abbas that Rice has been looking for.

Rice was also encouraged when, in the wake of Hamas' victory in Gaza, Abbas dissolved the Hamas-led government of national unity and appointed a new emergency government headed by a Washington favorite, former finance minister Salam Fayyad.

"We are going to support President Abbas and what he wants to do," she said on Monday, when she also announced that Washington would immediately send US$86 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) that had been suspended after Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006 and formed a government soon after.

By most accounts, Rice hopes to implement a "West Bank First" strategy designed to bolster Abbas and his Fatah party by pouring in aid, persuading Olmert to follow through on previous pledges to ease travel restrictions and release Palestinian prisoners, and resuming peace talks that would provide Palestinians with a "political horizon" for their own state.

During his visit to Washington, Olmert indicated his support for the strategy and said he is prepared to release hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians but which was frozen after Hamas took power.

The strategy is based on the assumption that a more prosperous and more hopeful West Bank run by Abbas and Fayyad will diminish popular support for Hamas among Palestinians, including in an already impoverished Gaza that, under Hamas rule, will receive only humanitarian assistance.

Blair, who has frequently urged Bush to take a more assertive role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but has opposed any engagement with Hamas, is also believed to be in agreement with this approach. But numerous regional experts have expressed strong skepticism in recent days about both the strategy and the assumptions on which it is based.

While this approach may have worked after Abbas' election to the PA presidency two years ago, according to a Washington Post column by two former Middle East negotiators, Robert Malley and Aaron Miller, "Today, Abbas is challenged by far more Palestinians and is far less capable of securing a consensus on any important decision."

Moreover, "For him to accept funds that can be spent only [in] the West Bank, or international dealings that exclude Gaza, would critically undercut his position as a symbol of the Palestinian nation," they noted, adding that the strategy underestimates Hamas' influence in the West Bank itself.

In addition, according to Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator currently based at the New America Foundation in Washington, excluding Hamas, particularly from peace talks, will encourage it to act as a spoiler.

"If Israel only works with Fatah," he told public television on Tuesday, "you incentivize Hamas to undermine that through violence, [and] then very quickly Israel will lose its appetite [for further concessions] ... and that's unlikely to work."

Levy, Malley and Miller argue for a major revision in Washington's approach that would encourage a new power-sharing arrangement between Hamas and Fatah to restore unity to the Palestinians and at least an indirect engagement by the US and other Western countries with Hamas to bolster moderate elements within it and achieve the consensus needed for Abbas to negotiate a two-state solution.

Neo-conservatives, whose views are closer to those of Abrams and Cheney's chief Middle East adviser, David Wurmser, say the latest events should result, if anything, in a hardening of US policy, if not the abandonment of a two-state solution altogether.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Oren of the Likudist Shalem Center in Jerusalem argued for a "new paradigm" in which "areas of extensive Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank" would be established, while security would be jointly administered by Israel and Jordan.

Original article posted here.


Ducky's here said...

What the hell is a "West Bank first" strategy?

Does that mean dismantling settlements? Free movement for Palestinians? Water rights? Ownership of arable land?

If it doesn't then Condo Rice is trying to pull a fast one. Can't imagine Condo would do that.

Da Weaz said...

West Bank first means to give money to Fatah to rule the West Bank trying to isolate Hamas in Gaza. Like all neo-Moron policies it is bound to fail, partly because Hamas is still powerful in the West Bank as well, Fatah is ever increasingly being viewed as an Israel-US lapdog, and Israel wants nothing good for the Palestinians anyway (but it wants everything good FROM the Palestinians).

These morons touch everything they see, and break everything they touch.

Nice hope for the future.

And Blair has had so much success with the Middle East already, why not add him onto the pile? Hell, his biggest accomplishment is dissuading the Moron from bombing Al Jazeera.

Doesn't take much to shine among this crop of idiots, thieves and war criminals.