British Prime Minister Tony Blair has suddenly directed his attention to the most difficult of issues, the Palestinian issue, announcing his intentions to capitalize on the window of opportunity created by the recent war in Lebanon following the kidnappings in Lebanon and Gaza.
Due to Blair’s special relationship with Washington, he might just be able to take advantage of this opportunity and prepare for the peace plan that always seems to be stalling.
However, Blair makes the same mistake as those who have preceded him by believing that the Palestinian issue solely concerns the Palestinians, ignoring that there have always been parties that benefit from the issue and that they will close that window of opportunity to him, making the Prime Minister a prisoner of problems more complicated than he had expected.
The mistake that US President Bill Clinton committed was that he hastily put together the best peace offer that the Palestinians had known in the history of initiatives and met almost all of their basic demands, however late President Yasser Arafat backed out at the last minute, because he knew that the wolves in the background were capable of biting those that ignored them.
Even if Blair decides to adopt Clinton’s plan, there are parties ready to spoil it. The Iranians will not sleep without undermining the situation for their other aims. The Syrian party will not remain a spectator as it sees itself isolated, and what happens afterwards will resemble what happened during the Clinton plan, when dozens of vehicles were blown up and hundreds of people were killed in the worst confrontations within the occupied Palestinian territories.
The peace partners here are the warlords from governments and organizations that will not spare any effort to sabotage any peace plan no matter how much it gives to the Palestinians.
Therefore the window of opportunity is probably open to Blair to try to build a fair peace plan acceptable to the Palestinians and protected by major countries. But unfortunately, the door has always been open to the wolves of war that reject peace if it does not cater to their demands outside of Palestine. The Palestinians have not only been the victims of Israeli aggression, occupation, and dispersion but also the victims of regional conflicts and used in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and by extremism when it was communist and now fundamentalist.
With a history full of dangerous diplomatic failures that resulted in more disasters than solutions, Blair has to calculate his steps very carefully, especially since time is not on his side. There is no escape from dealing with the region’s wolves and his options here are limited, to reach a consensus with the Iranians on the nuclear issue, to give the Syrian side its right to the occupied territories and a political position in the region, and to placate some fundamentalist forces in Egypt and Jordan and then start giving the Palestinians their goal of an independent state. Can Blair be generous with all of these? I doubt it, but his boldness deserves encouragement. Who knows?