This past week the Quartet formally announced the appointment of Tony Blair, outgoing British prime minister, as "Quartet Representative."
Rather than comment on this myself, I will quote from the latest JINSA Report, "Dayton Redux," which addresses this issue:
"In reality, he is envoy to [Abbas]…his mandate is, "mobilizing international assistance… securing financing for Palestinian institutions and governing tasks, and hashing out plans to promote Palestinian economic development." As if Palestinians – the world’s largest per capita recipients of international aid and recipients in sum of more money than Europe under the Marshall Plan – require more of that and not an elemental restructuring of a hateful nationalist ideology that has swallowed its own children in pursuit of the destruction of other people and their children.
"Tony Blair as the economic/institutional envoy to the Palestinians parallels the role of U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Dayton as the military envoy. Had anyone noticed until this week that the former economic/institutional envoy, Sir James Wolfenson, QUIT more than a year ago, citing frustration with the Palestinians? It must take a LOT to frustrate a former President of the World Bank. And a LOT to frustrate an American general officer. But Lt. Gen. Dayton’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. William Ward, told Congress upon leaving his job that the Palestinians had not met a single one of his conditions for success despite his best efforts .
"We assume they were pretty good efforts, as were those of Mr. Wolfenson and Lt. Gen. Dayton – and as will be those of Prime Minister Blair. One should assume, then, that the flaw lies in the mission, not in the men … "
Blair says he will probably come to the region in July and get to work promptly on his mission of laying the groundwork for a Palestinian state.
Already President Bush has punctured a hole in his balloon: He has made clear that Mr. Blair won’t be responsible for negotiations; this will, presumably, fall under Condoleezza Rice’s jurisdiction.
The Cabinet is set to establish a special committee to determine the criteria for releasing the 250 Fatah prisoners to "strengthen" Hamas. Olmert’s recommendation was that they be, first of all, prisoners without blood on their hands. This is the standard formula, which, I maintain, is often no more than a meaningless technicality. Someone who got caught before he could carry out a terrorist plot had no blood on his hands, but intentions that were very bloody indeed.
And then… they would be required to "sign commitments not to again become involved in terrorism." There is much that is ridiculous going on in this part of the world, but this criterion has always struck me as the height of lunacy. ("Sorry, Mahmoud, I’d like to join in that terrorist attack you’re planning, but I signed a piece of paper, so I can’t.")
Of course, current American policy with regard to the Palestinians strikes me as just marginally less ridiculous. The State Department wants to transfer US Security Coordinator Lt. General Dayton from Gaza to Judea and Samaria. And, now that Hamas took weapons from Fatah in Gaza, State wants to start all over with the same sort of worthless plan to strengthen Abbas again. The U.S. is just itching to give Fatah money, but hasn’t quite decided how to actually do that yet. One Democratic Congressional aide was quoted today as saying, "They have a great appetite to work with Abbas…But I don’t think they’ve quite figured out…what that cooperation looks like…"
Shoshanna Bryen, who is with JINSA, observed that failure in Gaza stemmed from flawed American expectations that any US security coordinator could lead Fatah security services in a direction amenable to US interests…rather than their own. And, indeed, many analysts think it’s time for Dayton to stop trying.
Some 200 Palestinian police have been deployed along the Gaza – Egypt border for the first time since Hamas took Gaza, but they are not Fatah police. Rather, they are members of Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, who have shaved their beards and donned the uniforms of the Palestinian National Security Force.
What I find interesting is that Fatah says this has happened as the result of a secret agreement between Hamas and the government of Egypt, which, I would suggest, needs to be watched very closely indeed.
The Central Committee of the Labor Party has approved the proposal of Chair Barak that Labor leave the coalition if Olmert doesn’t resign by the time the final Winograd report comes out in the fall.