David Hearst writes: Of all the bizarre encounters the Palestinian conflict has generated, Tony Blair’s four meetings in Doha with Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader must surely rank as one of the oddest.
Here was the Quartet’s Middle East envoy breaking the Quartet’s own rules about talking to Hamas until it recognises Israel – rules that Blair and Jack Straw , enforced as prime minister and foreign secretary by pressing the EU to declare Hamas a terrorist organisation. Two of the four meetings were held before Blair resigned as envoy.
Here was Blair, the man linked in mind, body, and soul to the military coup in Egypt (he said the army intervened ” at the will of the people” to bring democracy to Egypt) attempting to mediate between Hamas, Israel and Egypt – the two countries that have kept a stranglehold around Gaza’s neck. The Egyptian leader has been an even more zealous enforcer of the blockade than Netanyahu is.
In a British context, Blair’s dialogue with Hamas took place as his supporters accused the far left candidate in the Labour leadership race Jeremy Corbyn of making Labour unelectable if he became leader. Corbyn had advocated talks with Hamas and Hezbollah – a crime of which the man who won power three times was a repeat offender.
Blair did not just talk to Meshaal. He invited him to London, offering him a specific date in June, on which the current prime minister David Cameron must have agreed. This is the same prime minister who has strived and failed, so far, to publish a report branding the Muslim Brotherhood presence in Britain as extremist. Bizarre.
And yet Blair kept going, even after the existence of the talks was revealed by the Middle East Eye, In the last few days he has still been pushing the deal in Cairo. Why?
His motivation is not obvious. It is surely not out any belated humanitarian concern for 1.8m Gazans. As prime minister and peace envoy, Blair has provided Israel with valuable international cover for one operation in Gaza after another. [Continue reading…]