Tony Blair came across as paternalistic and biased towards Israel in his role as the Middle East Quartet’s special envoy, Palestinian officials claimed.
By Adrian Blomfield, Jerusalem
The former British prime minister was frequently scorned for his efforts to develop the economy of the West Bank, according to confidential memos obtained by Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network.
Mr Blair was seen as focusing too much on winning small concessions from Israel for minor development projects, while proving reluctant or impotent when it came to persuading Israel to ease bigger restrictions imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank.
In one memo reviewing his proposals, Mr Blair is accused of showing bias to the Israeli security forces and of advocating “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”.
Another is equally scathing: “The overall tone, without making any judgment as to intent, is paternalistic and frequently uses the style and jargon of the Israeli occupation authorities. Some of the terms are unacceptable to Palestinians.”
In a December, 2007 memo, the Palestinian Authority’s Negotiations Support Unit is critical of a plan by Mr Blair to develop an agribusiness project because Palestinians involved would suffer from Israeli restrictions on movement and exports.
Palestinian officials have frequently been critical of Mr Blair, who was appointed to his Middle East role in 2007, when speaking in private.
US officials earlier this week claimed Middle East peace negotiations have been made harder by the leak of documents disclosing Palestinian positions with Israel.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: “There has been real change on the ground as a result of Tony Blair’s efforts. The economy is now flourishing in the West Bank with double digit growth and falling unemployment. Palestinians are now able to move throughout the West Bank in ways impossible when Tony Blair started pushing for changes in the access and movement regime. A significant number of the core checkpoints have been opened.
“On Gaza specifically, Tony Blair personally negotiated with Prime Minister Netanyahu the package of changes that was announced in June following the flotilla incident. This ensured the entry of thousands of new commercial items into Gaza and facilitates the implementation of PA-approved construction projects and other international projects that had not progressed previously.”