w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 11:02 11/07/2005
By Akiva Eldar
The reaction of Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair proves that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's instincts - which led his ministers to make do with expressions of shock, condolence and concern over the convalescence of the victims of the explosions in England - did not mislead him. The global advice of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the preaching of Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, did not make an impression on Blair. In an interview he gave the BBC he suddenly turned Israel from a partner to a common fate to a partner in blame. He declared that "the solution cannot only be security measures," and put promotion of peace in the Middle East in second place on the list of the deep-seated causes of terrorism, which we "must start to pull up by the roots."
Terror looks different from 10 Downing Street. A year ago, when Sharon visited there, Blair heard that the eradication of the terror organizations and the removal of Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat were a condition to any progress in the political channel. At the time, he was not in a rush to handle the Middle Eastern conflict, or the separation fence or the illegal outposts. He was concerned with the attacks against his soldiers in Iraq and with the attacks against him for abandoning them in a war that wasn't theirs. He was grateful to the guest who sent his people to tell the British journalists that the findings about the Iraqi weapons of destruction were "certified and genuine."
In late 2004, Blair stood in the White House and nodded his head when he heard another meaningless declaration by his partner to the war, U.S. President George W. Bush, regarding his willingness to work together with a Palestinian leadership that would be committed to the war against terror and to democratic reforms. Blair returned to London without Bush's consent to an international peace conference. The British leader, who is eating crow because of his support for the problematic U.S. war against Iraq, took back his proposal to appoint a high-ranking presidential envoy to promote the "road map" peace plan. He took it back and remained silent.
Six months ago, when Blair came to Jerusalem, Sharon did not have to make much effort to convince his guest that in our case, dealing with terror takes precedence over dealing with the conflict. He announced publicly and in front of a group of journalists that "there will be no successful peace negotiations without an end to terror." Haaretz reported that in closed talks, Blair was even more outspoken. He promised to tell the Palestinians that if the terror did not end, they could forget about assistance and political support. PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who was then taking his first steps in the Muqata, picked up the gauntlet and came out strongly against the violent intifada. Blair, like the other European leaders, the patrons of the road map, aligned himself with the policy delineated by Bush: Quiet, we're disengaging.
The Al-Qaida attack on the United States erased the dividers between Palestinian terror, which is directed against the occupation, and Islamic terror, which is directed against Western culture. The situation has changed to such an extent that Bush and Sharon are preaching democracy to people who are living under the occupation of foreign armies. It's a shame that the message got through only after the disaster occurred at home. Hopefully, 7/7 will put an end to 9/11 and be the start of a proper campaign in the struggle against terror.