Blair appeared indifferent to the massive suffering of the
Palestinians – he was clearly impotent in preventing it – and spent much of his
time away from the tragedy of the Middle East, advising the great and the good
and a clutch of Muslim dictators, and telling the world – to Israel’s
satisfaction – of the dangers represented by Iran.
The more prescient he thought he was, the more irrelevant he
became in the eyes of the region he was sent to protect. A Blair supporter once
defended him on Channel 4 by recalling how he had travelled to the Middle East
almost 100 times – without realising the essential irony: that Blair abandoned
the region almost 100 times for more rewarding destinations.
Blair was supposed to produce more than the easy panaceas that
slipped from his lips, the most outrageous of which was his contention that
resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be easier than ending the
Northern Ireland crisis. But the Palestinians have much more in common with the
Irish Catholics cleansed from their lands by the Protestant planters of the 17th
century than with the pitiful historical battle in the province, whose
resolution proved to be Blair’s only lasting accomplishment.
If only he had resigned more than two years ago, after
Palestinian leaders had themselves characterised his job as “useless, useless,
useless”. Israel, of course, would never have described him as this. Stoutly
condemning the campaign for Israel’s “delegitimisation”, Blair talked about this
as a form of bias which was “an affront to humanity” – a choice of words he
never used about the massive civilian casualties inflicted by Israel on the
Palestinians of Gaza.
The Arabs will now wait to see if the Quartet will repeat its
folly by appointing an even more unsuitable candidate – a truly difficult task –
although many in the region think the whole panjandrum must be abandoned. Eight
years ago, there just might have been the slimmest chance of bringing a
Palestinian state into being. Today there is none.