Tony Blair Branded a Warmonger at Edinburgh International Book Festival

TONY Blair has been branded as the “worst” of the neo-conservative politicians for his “blind support” of Israel against Palestine by a leading academic on the Middle-East situation. The accusation was made by Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, and author of The Iron Wall, a critical interpretation of the history of Zionism and Israel.

Addressing an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Shlaim launched a vociferous attack on Blair for his role as peace envoy of the Middle East Quartet nations - the US, UN, EU, and Russia - involved in attempting to broker a lasting settlement between Israel and Palestine. Dismissing the Quartet as an invention of pro-Israeli neo-con politicians, that “never achieved anything” and was created as “a clever tactic to waste time”, he said that Blair, who was appointed in 2007 after standing down as Prime Minister, was “the ideal person to implement this non-policy.”

The academic described Blair being made a peace envoy as “oxymoronic”, branding him as a "warmonger”.   Adding that though he was unpopular among the other Middle East nations, Shlaim said that President George W Bush had appointed Blair the post because he “owed him something” for his support in the Iraq War.

He added: “So Tony Blair owes his election to his neo-con American friends, and many of the neo-cons are Jewish, and all of them, Jewish or non-Jewish, are great supporters of Israel. And when I say ‘neo-cons’, I include Blair. Blair is the worst of the bunch.”

“Tony Blair was always one-sided in his blind support for Israel”, he said. “As Quartet envoy, whenever I heard him speak, to me he sounded like an Israeli official, because he always used to bang on about Israeli security. He never talked about Palestinian rights, and one Palestinian official talked about Blair as ‘stupid, stupid, stupid’, and that’s also my view of Blair.”

He said that Israelis liked the former Prime Minister, who stood down as envoy earlier this year, because they felt they could “literally get away with murder”.

The academic also attacked the Israeli policy of continuing to build Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza territories as the reason for the collapse of the Oslo Peace process to find a lasting accord between the two nations.

“Settlements are not about peace, they are about land-grabbing,” he said. “It’s about stealing land from the Palestinians. And you cannot engage in land grabbing and peace-making at the same time. It’s one or the other. And by its actions, Israel has shown it’s more interested in land than it is peace.”  Shlaim said that successive Israeli leaders had expressed a desire for political settlement but keep building settlements.

He characterised the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach as “being like the man who pretends to negotiate the division of a pizza but keeps eating the pizza all the time.”  Netanyahu, Shlaim claimed, “did not believe in negotiations or compromise” in dealing with Palestinians, and as a Jewish nationalist “only Jews have any political right over the whole land of Israel, over the entire of the West Bank”.

He asserted that the Israeli leader was “not a peacemaker”, “could not conceive of a diplomatic solution to the dispute”, and was therefore a proponent of the “doctrine of permanent conflict.”

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