On June 27, 2007, Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was appointed Middle East Envoy to work as a peacemaker in the region on behalf of the US, the EU, the UN and Russia. The announcement of his appointment came just hours after Mr Blair stood down as UK Prime Minister. The analyst might be tempted to hypothesize that this nomination falls in Mr. Blair’s political calculations to get a decent out-of-office job after he leaves the prestigious 10th Downing Street. Such hypothesis is not weak due to Blair’s strong sense of political calculations that earned him three consecutive terms in office, a record in UK politics. However, the analyst might also hope that the still dynamic Blair is sent to fix a political chaos he contributed to maintain in the Middle East. In this case, his task might not be easy as it will require he changes tactics.

Tony Blair seems to be aware of the difficult task involving his nomination as Middle Envoy. Recent media reports indicate that he suggests that stability and peace in the Middle East require a huge and intense amount of work. The first step in this work is gaining the parties’ trust. If Blair has already gained Israel’s trust for being their ally, it is more difficult for him to gain the Palestinians’ trust for the same reason. Obviously Abbas, the Palestinian Authority and his party Fatah salute Blair’s appointment. However, the Palestinian movement Hamas criticises Blair’s nomination, sending negative signals to cooperating with the new Middle East Envoy. Hamas accuses Blair of lacking honesty and neutrality. But in a recent statement Blair has assured the international community to work hard for a peaceful two-state solution to the Israelo-Palestinian conflict. UN officials trust Blair as a key player able to bring energy to the Middle East peace process.

If Tony Blair is to succeed in bringing positive energy and constructive peace to the Middle East, he must learn to embrace the qualities of a peacemaker. In other words, the newly appointed Middle Envoy must learn to be a neutral facilitator. He must learn to reach out to both sides in the conflict without taking a side. This requires other tactics than political calculation tactics. Political calculation usually involves people’s manipulation aimed at more or less egoistic goals of political or social successes. Peacemaking requires compassion for others, reflective listening of others, negotiation with others to allow the empowerment of local capacity for peace. Time will tell us whether Tony Blair will be able to show compassion, to listen, and to help develop local capacity for peace in the Middle East. Of course, the Former UK Prime Minister has the assets and abilities to be a good peacemaker. We wait and see how he will uses his great assets!

Jacques KOKO, Senior Political Analyst -Americans for Informed Democracy