Blair Cared More about Getting Filthy Rich Than He Did about Peace in the Middle East; by Francis Beckett and David Hencke, the Authors Who Exposed His Venality in the Mail

Daily Mail (London), March 17, 2015 | Go to article overview

Blair Cared More about Getting Filthy Rich Than He Did about Peace in the Middle East; by Francis Beckett and David Hencke, the Authors Who Exposed His Venality in the Mail


Byline: Francis Beckett and David Hencke

TONY BLAIR may have been an electoral success as leader of the Labour Party, but he has been a miserable failure in his post-premiership role as the international peace envoy to the Middle East.

The man once renowned for his charisma and popularity has become a global embarrassment, despised and ridiculed in equal measure.

'A standing joke' is the description of one former diplomat. 'Useless, useless, useless,' is the damning recent verdict of a senior aide to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

The post of international envoy was established by the so-called Quartet -- the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN -- with the twin, connected aims of promoting peace in the Middle East and driving the economic development of the Palestinian territories in the Gaza strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Scarred

By any reckoning, Blair's performance has been woeful. As the Middle East is increasingly scarred by extremism, peace in the region looks further away than ever.

Hostility between Israel and Palestine is still profound, while Blair's eager rhetoric about economic growth and investment has never been matched by reality.

Badly tainted by his record in the Iraq War, which rightly aroused widespread distrust, he never threw himself wholeheartedly into the task, partly because he became so obsessed with making money. Indeed, his eagerness to develop and exploit his global business contacts both undermined his credibility and gave rise to serious conflicts of interests.

Given his dismal record, it is amazing he has remained in the post for so long, having first been appointed envoy in June 2007. But this week the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, finally suggested the role was at an end, with the U.S. State Department saying that Blair's role is 'no longer viable'.

Blair's apparent demise in this job represents a victory for common sense -- and for this newspaper. Over recent days, the Mail has been running extracts from our new book, highlighting Blair's fixation with money and the widespread contempt he has incurred for his post-prime ministerial conduct.

Now the message seems to have got through to the international leaders, headed by Kerry. But it is a step that should have been taken long ago.

By the time we came to research our book on Blair, nearly three years ago, he was already a figure of fun in the region. Palestinians loathed him; Israelis despised him but tolerated him because they knew he'd never say anything they disliked.

Here's a waspishly ironic sample, from David Horovitz, editor-inchief of The Times of Israel, on May 27, 2013, reporting on a Jerusalem press conference given by John Kerry to launch a new economic package: 'The answer to all such questions [about funding Middle Eastern infrastructure] it seemed, was Tony Blair.

'The indefatigable former British prime minister, shaking hands with those sheikhs at the side of the hall, he was going to fix it. Somehow Tony the economic tiger was going to rustle up $4 billion in investment and -- presto! -- our problems would be solved.'

Blamed

If Blair had put his heart and soul into the job, he would probably have left it in 2009 to become President of the European Council -- a role he wanted badly. One of the reasons he failed to get the European job was that he had performed so poorly in the big international job he had already.

Jean Quatremer, Brussels correspondent for the French newspaper Liberation, wrote: 'He is blamed for his inactivity as Quartet Representative in the Middle East, where he makes only rare appearances, despite the sumptuous fitting-out he has demanded for his place there.'

So what went wrong? We asked the man Blair replaced in the Middle East, James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, who told us that it was a full-time job, and you could not do it effectively unless you treated it that way. …

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