Bethlehem recently got a spring-clean. The frenzied rubbish collection and freshly painted road markings meant only one thing – important visitors were expected. This week, an estimated 1,000 foreign representatives from hundreds of companies gathered in the West Bank city for the Palestine investment conference, to discuss private-sector projects valued at around $2bn.
According to the conference organisers, the three-day event, co-ordinated by the Palestinian Authority, had a simple slogan: “You can do business in Palestine.” Scheduled speakers included Tony Blair, in his role as the Quartet’s special envoy, the Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, and the United Arab Emirates minister of economy, Sheikha Lubna Khalid Sultan al-Qasimi. Read more
They are a rare breed, but you can still find them, in positions of political power and newspaper opinion pages. Their motives are mixed, but they have one thing in common; they are optimistic about the Israeli-Palestinian Annapolis peace process. For some, their job requires them to paint a rosy picture about the international community’s ‘peace process’. For others, there is a blind naivety that perhaps this time, the speeches and announcements might actually amount to a positive change. Some of these optimists, desperate to protect Israel from critique and sanction, are compelled to suggest the ‘two sides’ are on the verge of a ‘breakthrough compromise’. Read more
As soon as it was confirmed that Tony Blair would be taking up the role of special envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the Quartet (USA, EU, UN and Russia), typical reactions ranged from skepticism to mockery. However, the choice of Blair is only incredible if one takes at face value the stated function and intent of the Quartet regarding the ‘peace process’. Most mainstream commentators, therefore, have missed a trick.
Some have coyly hinted at the fact that Blair will be an ‘unpopular’ or ‘controversial’ choice of envoy in the Middle East (without going into any of the gruesome details). Others have gone further, highlighting specific Blair policies in the Middle East and concluding that the Quartet could have made a better selection. Common amongst all these approaches though is that the Quartet’s intentions are placed beyond serious critique. On closer inspection, the Quartet and Blair are a perfect match for each other, having been consistently on the same wavelength both in terms of practical strategies and the corresponding informing ideology. Read more