I SUPPOSE we should be grateful that President Bush has not proposed the currently unemployed Paul Wolfowitz as special envoy for the Middle East Quartet negotiating group of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, but his nomination of Tony Blair for the job is almost as bizarre. How could the person who, next to Mr Bush himself, has been most responsible for turning the Middle East upside down and inside out over the past four years possibly qualify as a peace negotiator in the same area?

To his credit, Mr Blair is said to be “bristling” over the hamfisted way in which President Bush has handled this business. To announce that the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is “very keen on the idea” was not exactly calculated to recommend Mr Blair as an impartial envoy to the Palestinians or to the other states in the region involved in the peace process.

The vacant job was undertaken by the respected former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn until April of last year when he resigned because of the lack of support from the Quartet and Israel in making any progress with building Palestinian institutions, governance and economic development. The task has been made even more difficult by the far from unfinished events of the past week.

Even if he wants the job Mr Blair would be wise to let the Middle East sandstorms settle before discussing its terms and conditions.