Posts Tagged 'Middle East'

Hey! Judah! Leave them trees alone!

These are some suggested new lyrics for the Lebanon-Israel border version of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, following what could be considered to be the first eco-shooting in the Middle East.

Reports suggest some Israeli soldiers, (who insist they remained on their own side of the border with Lebanon) entered the buffer zone to cut down a tree that obscured their view of the village of Adaysseh on the Lebanese side.  Lebanese troops on the other side of the border apparently warned the Israelis not to uproot the tree, before opening fire, wounding at least two IDF troops.  The Israelis apparently responded with artillery on those who opened fire, killing up to four people.  It’s clear that cutting down a tree was no threat to the Lebanese soldiers, so one has to wonder why they felt the need to engage.

The situation is confused.  Lebanon claims the tree was on their side of the border and thus the Israeli work was an incursion.  They also say the Israelis opened fire first, although it was the Lebanese issuing warnings.  Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, condemned Israel’s “aggression” and said Lebanese sovereignty had been violated. 

It’s hard to imagine that uprooting a tree is an act of aggression, unless of course the tree belongs to the Na’vi from the film Avatar.  It certainly sparked a serious military exchange and again underlined the feeble level of response by the United Nations.  The whole thing appears to be a massive over reaction by some men with very itchy trigger fingers.  It could have been a lot worse.  Imagine if instead of a tree it had been an entire row of Leylandii being cut down!

Update: It has since been claimed that the Israelis gave the United Nations notice of their intention to carry out work within their borders, but between the fences.  If true, were the Lebanese told?  Time for answers from the UN, if they can pull themselves away from their spectator sport of watching Hezbollah restock their weapons in breach of UN Resolution 1701.

What is Tony Blair doing in the Middle East?

Within hours of stepping down as Prime Minister in 2007 and as part of his (failed) strategy to become President of the European Council, Tony Blair assumed an international statesman’s role in the Middle East as ‘Quartet Representative‘ on behalf of the United Nations, US, Russian Federation and European Union.

Setting aside the irony of Blair working for peace given his eagerness to send British troops into action throughout his premiership, his job working with the Palestinians as an envoy was to:

  • mobilise international assistance to the Palestinians, working closely with donors and existing coordination bodies
  • help to identify, and secure appropriate international support in addressing the institutional governance needs of the Palestinian state, focusing as a matter of urgency on the rule of law
  • develop plans to promote Palestinian economic development, including private sector partnerships, building on previously agreed frameworks, especially concerning access and movement
  • and liaise with other countries as appropriate in support of the agreed Quartet objectives

Given Tony Blair’s job description and given that the UK is a substantial donor of international aid to the Palestinian authority, it might be a surprise to learn that in those two and a half years as Quartet Representative, Blair has not held a single meeting with any of his former government colleagues working at the Department for International Development (DFID).  This is despite the department having seconded one of our civil servants, paid for by the British taxpayer, to Blair’s ‘Office of the Quartet Representative’ in Jerusalem.

So what is Blair actually doing in the Middle East?  The answer seems to be, not very much.  While Blair seems to be demonstrating masterful inaction when it comes to the Palestinians, he does however seem rather more active in matters of personal comfort.  It’s so nice to know that having torn apart the social fabric of this country and helped run up the largest debt we have seen since the second world war, we taxpayers are still picking up the tab to satisfy his planet sized ego while getting nothing of value in return.

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