NO one who follows these things expected for a moment that Tony Blair would be content with the limited role he appeared to have been given by the Quartet powers in his dealings with Israel and the Palestinians. “Creating viable and lasting Palestinian government institutions, strengthening the Palestinian economy and establishing law and order for the Palestinian people” was how US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decribed the job. There was no mention of Israel. Hardly the “peace-envoy” role that Mr Blair envisaged for himself.

But two interesting things have happened. First, we have learned that Mr Blair's job description also includes these words: “liaising with other countries as appropriate in support of the agreed Quartet's objectives.” I am sure Mr Blair, who dislikes detail, will think that phrase gives him a free hand to do whatever he wants. However, even more interesting is a letter which the Palestinian Authority has sent to the four members of the Quartet (US, Russia, EU and UN) asking them to ensure that Mr Blair does not concentrate just on Palestinian responsibilities but also monitors Israel's compliance with the peace process road-map in such matters as the freezing of settlement construction and opening of check points. It is often assumed that the Palestinians have the most to do towards a two-state settlement, but in fact the Israelis have even more: compliance with UN resolutions on settlements, borders and the return of refugees to their land. For starters.


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