I give Tony Blair a year or so before he quits

Here’s why I think former British PM Tony Blair is making a big mistake in taking the job of Middle East envoy—a job that is apparently limited in scope to “shoring up Palestinian institutions” and not actually negotiating any deals. Alvaro de Soto, who was the United Nations’ representative to the Middle East until he ...

600853_070628_desoto_05.jpg
600853_070628_desoto_05.jpg

Here's why I think former British PM Tony Blair is making a big mistake in taking the job of Middle East envoy—a job that is apparently limited in scope to "shoring up Palestinian institutions" and not actually negotiating any deals.

Alvaro de Soto, who was the United Nations' representative to the Middle East until he stepped down in May of this year, penned a damning report on the Quartet's failure in the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. It leaked to the Guardian, which promptly published the entire report on its website. De Soto is a professional diplomat who did a lot of good in advancing the Cyprus peace process, so we should take him seriously.

The report is filled with juicy details on why Blair's predecessor, James Wolfensohn, couldn't get anywhere. It does credit Wolfensohn with getting across "the notion first put forward by the World Bank that the Israeli closure system was the determining factor in the decline of the Palestinian economy." But as de Soto notes, "Israel has completely shut off Palestinian workers from going to Israel at all - Palestinians who used to work in numbers over 100,000 in Israel have been reduced to zero."

Here’s why I think former British PM Tony Blair is making a big mistake in taking the job of Middle East envoy—a job that is apparently limited in scope to “shoring up Palestinian institutions” and not actually negotiating any deals.

Alvaro de Soto, who was the United Nations’ representative to the Middle East until he stepped down in May of this year, penned a damning report on the Quartet’s failure in the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. It leaked to the Guardian, which promptly published the entire report on its website. De Soto is a professional diplomat who did a lot of good in advancing the Cyprus peace process, so we should take him seriously.

The report is filled with juicy details on why Blair’s predecessor, James Wolfensohn, couldn’t get anywhere. It does credit Wolfensohn with getting across “the notion first put forward by the World Bank that the Israeli closure system was the determining factor in the decline of the Palestinian economy.” But as de Soto notes, “Israel has completely shut off Palestinian workers from going to Israel at all – Palestinians who used to work in numbers over 100,000 in Israel have been reduced to zero.”

And so it’s clear that Blair will have to address this key factor in the Palestinians’ economic catastrophe if he is going to get anywhere … which will entail negotiating with the Israelis. Unless Condi Rice can deliver on this, Blair’s efforts will be useless—and that’s why he’ll eventually quit in frustration. I’d love to be proven wrong.

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