By Schmoel Yitzhak
Whatever your political persuasion, you have to like Tony Blair.
That is, unless you are a total misanthrope such as Bashar al-Assad.
The most adorable thing about Blair, the Quartet’s Middle East Envoy, is his unbound optimism.
The least endearing aspect of the bubbly Brit is his consummate dreaminess. If ever the world has known a walking, talking Pollyanna, Blair is it; surrounded by smiles.
This fact of life was evident in Tel Aviv the other day when Great Britain\s ex-Prime Minister addressed the first International Conference for Regional Coordination.
Not surprisingly, Blair was asked about the possibilities of Arab-Israeli peace.
“If something is worth it,” Tony explained, “never give up until it’s done.”
Which is well and good as quotations go. You can’t put down a man who’s always looking up.
But there is such a thing as reality and it intruded on Tony’s talk when he allowed that he has come to the area no less than seventy -- that’s 70 -- times as the Quartet’s chief pusher-for-peace.
In baseball -- and mediation for that matter -- an oh-for-seventy batting average just doesn’t cut it In fact, it stinks to high Heaven.
Not that Blair isn’t trying; why the man is indefatigable in that respect. However, it’s the Arabs who are trying; VERY TRYING!
How can Tenacious Tony -- or, when you think about it -- any other Middle East mediator -- succeed if protagonists such as Mahmoud Abbas scuttle all attempts to jump-start the mediation machine?
In his display of forked-tongue diplomacy, the Palestinian leader makes two totally contradictory statements.
On the one hand, Abbas asserts that his primary priority is getting back to negotiations with Israel; even more so than the Palestinians’ United Nations bid for statehood.
On the other hand his perfidy immediately is exposed when he counters that he will do so only if Israel -- in effect -- destroys its dignity and defense by returning to the 1967 borders and ceases “settlement” construction.
By any reasonable political definition, that spells PRE-CONDITIONS and by any rules of reasonable resumption, that’s precisely the wrong way to get peace talks back on track.
Thus, it can be expected that when Blair returns for his 71st visit, the negotiation prospects will be exactly where they are now; at Square One.
That is, unless two destructive-to-Israel events take place: To wit:
WASHINGTON PRESSURE: Barack Obama has dispatched long-time Middle East advisor Dennis Ross to Israel. It’s abundantly clear that the weakest American president in history wants Benjamin Netanyahu to do what B.O. does best, capitulate to the Arabs. He wants Bibi to submit to the 1967 border request and stop construction in Judea and Samaria.
ISRAEL SUBMITS: There has never been a “second” Winston Churchill whose personality as much as his strategic acumen helped England weather the woes of World War II. I don’t expect Netanyahu to suddenly become a Churchill but -- in these very trying times -- it would be worthwhile for Bibi to stand up to all intimidation. That is, from the so-called “ally” in America and the Arabs surrounding us. If the Prime Minister crumbles before such Obama pressure then maybe Smiling Tony will be right after all.
And if that happens, it may be time to man the barricades!