Tony Blair wants to be a world leader, a statesman. Fine. Right now would be a good time to start. Instead of whispering from the sidelines, let the UK Government?s voice be heard loud and clear in Washington and Tel Aviv. Let Tony Blair properly represent decent and common-sense opinion here and across the world by telling his buddy in arms, George Bush, to stop supporting Israel?s policies against its Arab neighbours.
“Israel has the right to defend itself,” George Bush said in response to a question about the unprovoked attack by Israeli bomber aircraft on a Palestinian camp ten miles from Damascus. But the American President was being wicked and devious, not stupid. He?s no intellectual giant, or military strategist, but he?s well aware of the international law and UN rules governing appropriate response when a country?s security is attacked or undermined.
He knew Syria hadn?t attacked Israel, but he wants to be re-elected, so now?s not the time for him to start upsetting America?s very influential pro-Israel lobby. That?s the devious bit. Wickedness comes into the frame when George W gives Israel?s warmongering prime minister Ariel Sharon the green light to continue with his hard-line policies against the Palestinians.
How many more people have to be blown to pieces either by Palestinian suicide bombers or Israeli tanks and bombs before Mr Sharon?s unwinnable campaign is admitted to be just that by Washington and London? The Israeli prime minister is perhaps more responsible than any other single person for the present intifada. Before he was prime minister, when he was rabble-rousing to win votes, it was his visit to a sensitive part of Jerusalem that triggered today?s violence when he deliberately rubbed Palestinian noses in their sadness at the city being exclusively controlled by Israel.
Thirty-year-old radio tapes, which have just been made public in Israel, should remove any lingering doubts about Mr Sharon: regardless of his orders, he did as he thought fit in the Yom Kippur war with Egypt and Syria. The only slim chance of persuading him to change his policy lies in Mr Bush?s hands. Mr Sharon is unlikely to be persuaded by any argument by the American President, but if the United States? financial and political support is withdrawn, he?s certainly enough of a field commander to know he has to change his tactics.
Unfortunately for the stability of the Middle East, and many other areas of the world, the dubiously elected George W has surrounded himself with belligerent advisers such as Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft and Condoleezza Rice who are now having to justify their reckless, ill thought-out “war against terrorism”. As the world now knows, that Gang of Four, abetted by Mr Blair, waged an unjustified war in Iraq and ratcheted up recruitment to militant Arab and Muslim groups.
Tony Blair has been handed, if not a get-out-of-jail card, then at least a promise of parole card, if he goes to the UN and backs Syria in its attempt to get a Security Council motion condemning Israel. The results of the Hutton Inquiry, together with the revelations in Robin Cook?s diary, plus the investigations now being mounted in the US will damn Tony Blair unequivocally. He has every reason he needs to distance himself, and the UK, from George Bush?s contemptuous treatment of the sovereignty of weaker, poorer nations.
President Assad of Syria, in the face of being bombed by Israel, reached for his phone not his gun. That may have been a reflection of the reality of the weakness of his forces compared to Israel?s, but, in going to the UN, Bashar Assad opened up the possibility of international talks. The US has the clout to ensure the talks lead to a new plan for settling the war between Palestinians and Israel.
Ariel Sharon?s policies cause so much hardship and hatred amongst Palestinians that they ensure a never-ending stream of martyrs, and an ever lengthening toll of victims. Fifty years of cruel repression, and savage retribution, won?t be forgotten or forgiven quickly. But it?s madness to allow one country to destabilise security across the globe. Israel has to accept that Palestinians must have a state also.
The US must call the shots, and Tony Blair must tell it like it is to his comrade in arms, to try to salvage what he can of the UK?s reputation as a fair and decent society.
Margo McDonald is a scottish nationalist politician and author.
Courtesy of The Scotsman newspaper, Scotland.