Thursday, January 08, 2009

Middle East Envoy Blair Spills Beans before Gaza Pummeling?

A year ago Quartet Middle East Envoy Tony Blair presaged the Israeli-Palestinian situation with his comment:

“There’s two things that are happening in the Middle East at one and the same time,” Blair said. “One is a very very difficult situation in Gaza, with all the difficulties we know and can see, but the other is a real attempt by the Palestinian and Israeli leadership to find an accommodation,” he said.

What happened the last quarter of 2008 on these difficult situations? A timeline of key activities is below:

November 9--The Quartet received an update on Israel-Palestinian progress under Tony Blair. There is no mention of Gaza or Hamas in the report.

November 25--Tony Blair and Rob Danin, his U.S. supplied assistant, hold an economic conference on investment in the West Bank and dangle the boom times carrot to beleaguered Palestinians.

December 4-Tony Blair strongly supports the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and General James L. Jones as National Security Adviser.

In the piece he stated, 'There can only be one Palestinian state. It will combine Gaza and the West Bank. However much we are tempted to set Gaza to one side ... it cannot be.'

December 8--Tony Blair indicates Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas reached a secret agreement for peace.

December 20--Tony Blair speaks with Haaretz. In the interview he hemmed and hawed over Israel-Gaza. The piece stated:

Two weeks ago Blair met with Hillary Clinton, the incoming American Secretary of state, and with Gen. James Jones, who will be national security adviser. He says the two understand that a change of strategy on Gaza is necessary. "I'd rather that they would declare their policy rather than me, but when I say that I don't think that the current situation is sustainable, I think most people who would analyze it think the same.

"I ask him several times what he proposes. Here Blair stops and goes silent. "I have ideas about this," he says, "but it is not sensible to talk about it at the moment, ...the reason I am being coy about solutions and strategies is that I think that the time to discuss this publicly is not now. ."

This all seems innocent enough until the comments of U.S. Congressman Howard Berman on December 18 are considered. Mr. Berman is the head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia. Howard spoke to the Jerusalem Post:

In an interview after addressing a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Berman also said the new US administration should not interfere if Israel felt it necessary to take military action in the Gaza Strip.

“The [rocket] strikes, the ongoing [arms] smuggling, the Hamas efforts to modernize their arsenal - all these things together pose a real threat to Israel, and an intolerable situation. There is obviously a big price to pay for deciding to take military action, but I think the US should support the Israeli decision on this,” he said.

He said he believed the Obama administration would be “very reluctant” to interfere with an Israeli “self-defense action.”

Blair hemmed, Howard spilled the beans. The West is a partner in the current operation. This explains the thirteenth day of silence from President elect Barack Obama.

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