Tony Blair must be glad to be ending his time in 10 Downing Street. It’s been an incredible ten years for the Labour Prime Minister, but having faced a difficult couple of years under tremendous pressure from his own party, Parliament and the British people, he’ll be pleased to say farewell. Aged 54, he has many good years ahead of him, and by the sounds of things, he’s not planning on getting out his slippers and pipe quite yet. Blair is expected to be appointed the Quartet’s Middle East envoy later today. The reaction was predictable: The Americans think he’ll be great, Tzipi Livni said it was a “terrific decision”, the Russians are disappointed and the Palestinians think it’s the worst thing to have happened to them since al-Naqba.
It will for sure be interesting to see how an envoy that appreciates Israel’s predicament fares in the region. Reaction has ranged from those that think this is yet another pointless effort at mediating between two sides that are so bitterly divided to make the whole exercise worthless, to those that think it’s worth a try, if unlikely to reap any rewards. I, however, am more interested in the spectacle of Tony Blair spending more time in Jerusalem. Rumour has it that he’ll get an office somewhere in Jerusalem. If he’s going to be here for longer periods, he might get fed up of the Citadel or King David and look to buy a small eight bedroom in the German Colony. If he and Cherie are strapped for cash now that they’re a one-income family, they could always call Ehud Olmert for some advice on where to get a dodgy loan, or simply put their Connaught Square house on the market. Then there’ll be the question of whether Tony would prefer to start his day in Café Hillel or Aroma – “I’ll have a coffee and croissant please… and do it Islington style”. He’ll probably fall off his chair when he discovers that a café breakfast doesn’t have to cost £12 . Then of course there’s the question of what to do with the kids. Ulpan would be a sensible first move but the only way to really pick up the language would be to enlist them all in the army and send them to Lebanon for the next war.
Tony has always been a friend of Israel, sometimes at great political cost. His support for Israel last summer might have been the nail in his political coffin, a decision that couldn’t have been made easily. It only goes to prove that he must have a thing for Israel and the Jews. With rumours circulating that he’s considering converting to Catholicism, we can only assume that the story is more or less right but the details are slightly off. When Tony hits the Middle East, don't be surprised if his first phone call is not to Olmert or Abu Mazen - the Jerusalem Rabbinate should be rolling out the red carpet!