Editor’s Notes: What Tony did next

By David Horovitz June 29, 2007

It was the Middle East that ultimately brought about Tony Blair’s downfall — and especially his willingness to pan through the tragic TV footage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the underlying truth that nobody would be dying, on either side, if the Palestinians would simply halt their fire

So farewell, then, Prime Minister Blair. And welcome Tony the Peacemaker? Would that it were so…

‘Things can only get better,’ they sang when you took office a decade ago. And things did, although they seem to have quite thoroughly forgotten.

The economy thrived, thanks in no small part to your dour buddy Gordon; much was done to salvage the health service and the education system from the worst ravages of Thatcherism; an open society flourished.

What your own former faithful have forgotten most of all, though, is how much better, how astoundingly better, things got for your Labor Party, which you tore from the clutches of the loony Left and restored as the natural party of British government. So complete has been the transformation that even the anticharismatic Brown has now bounced to the top of the polls, and the Conservative’s bandwagon-jumping David Cameron is floundering, his party unable to shed the stain of self-interest you imprinted upon it: The Conservatives, elitist pretenders to your New Labor’s Middle England throne.

How cruel that your own party would betray you so, and force you from the spotlight, when it was you that hauled it back to power.

You are not, it should be stated, entirely without blame for your downfall. The classless, straight-talking man of the people chose in time to rely on masters of the dark arts of political spin, and got embroiled, as well, in the unseemly trading of cash for honors, and other grubby imbroglios of the kind that had brought the Tories down.

But it was the Middle East that ultimately did you in, Tony: your instinctive alliance with George Bush in the war on terrorism; your partnership with him on Iraq – ousting Saddam without planning for the aftermath; and your willingness to pan through the tragic TV footage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the underlying truth that nobody would be dying, on either side, if the Palestinians would simply halt their fire.

The writing on the Downing Street wall became impossible to ignore last year, when your popularity had slipped into the low twenties. What our prime minister would give for those lows. What Israel would give for a recent history that lists just three prime ministers in 18 years – and the consequent opportunity for leaders to fashion and try to pursue a strategic agenda for their country rather than succumb to the daily imperative to keep rivals at bay and stave off the next coalition crisis.

They’ll miss you more and more, I imagine, as time passes, and they’ll start to wonder if, just perhaps, your easy articulacy disguised the fact you were sometimes speaking from the heart after all.

And they’ll certainly miss that articulacy – an ability to actually communicate to people in words they could understand. It was a gift that had us, here in Israel, hoping that the awkward public Bush, however well- intentioned, would yield the microphone at those joint White House press conferences, so that you might coherently explain the inconvenient truth that, no, not everybody in today’s world wants to live and let live; certain nations, and the gunmen and bombers they sponsor, genuinely want to kill and be killed. And they genuinely need to be stopped.

It’s admirable that, after this feverish decade, you want, rather than to disappear, to now try and replicate in our region your landmark achievement, the improbable cohabitation of lions with lambs in Northern Ireland. It must reflect a slightly masochistic combination of your intensified religious beliefs, a sense of responsibility for resolving unfinished business over here, and the undimmed energy of an ultra-confident, immensely experienced world leader still only in his mid-50s for whom unemployment scarcely beckons.

The problem, would-be peacemaker Blair, is that your conviction that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict holds the key to defeating Islamic extremism is flawed. The true challenge is to marginalize the influence of Islamic extremism – by both denying it the practical means to commit murder and by nurturing and empowering its cowed moderate rivals. That way, you solve our conflict and stabilize much more besides.

Tragically, however, your successes over Ireland will be far harder to achieve in this most ruthless of regions. The extremists you wooed to the Good Friday peace table were more than ready to kill their enemies but rather less prepared to kill themselves. Here, among our foes, the appetite for death has long since turned in upon itself. And breaking the addiction may be beyond the powers of even the most energetic and persuasive of spurned British prime ministers.

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