A month before the war in Iraq began, I took a delegation of religious leaders to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, to urge that he find a better alternative. We met with Mr. Blair for nearly an hour, and along with Iraq, the critical need for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict figured prominently in our discussions. The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-As, told Prime Minister Blair, “The road to Baghdad leads through Jerusalem.” Even then, the British government was making the critical connection between peace in the Middle East and the problem of terrorism and Iraq, much more than the U.S. government. The Middle East “Roadmap” to peace was one of his priorities, and he thought he could secure a strong commitment from President Bush. But the war in Iraq became the Bush administration’s almost-sole priority.
Tomorrow, Blair steps down as Prime Minister, and the news is that he will be named as special envoy for the international diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East. He has long had a deep interest in Mideast peace, and according to The Guardian,
The idea of Mr. Blair doing this job is understood to have originated with the prime minister himself in conversation with George Bush, who then suggested it to the U.N. The U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is said to be a keen supporter and Washington was reported last night to have mounted “an enormous push” to ensure Mr. Blair got the post.
The Guardian also notes the job description (a thankless task):
The job description does not look attractive. The envoy has four bosses: the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the E.U., who frequently disagree and are currently in despair over how to reunite the Palestinians and inject some life in the peace process.
I believe Tony Blair has a deep passion for peace and human rights, despite our disagreement about the war in Iraq. In the last months before leaving office, he was strongly pressuring the international community to finally do something about the genocide in Darfur. I certainly wish Tony Blair success in his new job, and hope he will be the right person for this crucial role. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a key to resolving many other problems in the entire region.