I don’t see any reason to be optimistic about a possible revival of serious peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is busy trying to arrange a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week. But, what happened to the ‘Quartet’ – made up of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – which was supposed to be an active peace broker?
I am not arguing that there should be no role for Mitchell, a very gifted peace negotiator as he has demonstrated in helping to broker the Northern Ireland peace process. Nor am I suggesting that the US should not take a leading role in pushing the Middle East peace process forward. As we have seen during the Bush administration, US passivity has made matters worse in this part of the world. But now, with a more involved Obama administration, has the Quartet become superfluous? How come we are not hearing anything about the Quartet anymore, along with its illustrious representative, former British prime minister Tony Blair?
Where is Blair, and what is he doing? By consuming news on Middle Eastern politics these days, it is highly unlikely to come across his name. To see Tony in action, you would need to enroll in a class entitled ‘Faith and Globalization’ at Yale University; or sip champagne at the Hilton Chicago along with employees of the Zurich Financial Services Group, which hired Blair as an adviser on global political trends and climate change issues; or, well, watch David Letterman’s ‘Late Show’, where Blair was a guest last week.
Phew! It just seems Blair is too busy making the rounds these days. And as if all those activities weren’t already enough, Blair is also touring European capitals to lobby for the new post of EU president. Yet while he keeps building his impressive resume, one thing seems clear: the negotiation of a Middle East peace agreement will not be featured among his accomplishments.