WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is going to play a bigger role in efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks by intensifying his partnership with special U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell.
In a written statement, Clinton said she had spoken to Blair on Thursday about developments in the region. As a result of that call, she said Blair would broaden his current role as representative of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers to “intensify his partnership” with Mitchell in support of the attempt to revive political negotiations.
Mooching around I found this old report at the Guardian which tells a strangely symbolic story –
Memories of Cherie Blair’s outspoken position on Palestine clearly still haunt. In 2002 she was forced to apologise for telling a charity event in London that young Palestinians had “no hope” but to blow themselves up.
Fast forward seven years, to a similar event in the House of Commons next Tuesday: the official launch of the newly created Labour Friends of Palestine (LFP). Their main speaker was due to be Blair … until yesterday, when she pulled out, around two hours after LFP’s inaugural line-up had been publicised.
So far there has been a difference between the government’s line on Gaza 2009 and Lebanon 2006. Back then, Tony Blair attracted criticism (from, among others, the current foreign secretary, David Miliband, who was then the minister at Defra) for not calling for an immediate end to firing and saying Israel must be allowed to defend itself. This month, no such line, and instead the call for an immediate ceasefire.
LFP are broadly pleased with government movement so far, but clearly things are too brittle for candour from Cherie. LFP will, however, do fine without her: speaking will be Jocelyn Hurndall, the mother of activist Tom Hurndall, who was shot dead in Gaza in 2003.
6pm update: We take it back: A friend of Cherie Blair’s has just called to say the reason she won’t be attending the launch is because she’s going to be in America with her husband when he collects the congressional gold medal from George Bush. Apparently, Cherie knew a while back but couldn’t tell LFP that she wouldn’t be around until now.
So she missed the launch of a group that while an attempt at a balancing corrective is tiny compared to Labour Friends of Israel (one T. Blair a member when PM) because Tony was getting his medal for conspiring with Bush, the Neocons and Israel to invade Iraq. Yeah this peace process is fine, no problems at all, what could possibly go wrong…