Tony Blair open to humanitarian role in Gaza

Tony Blair open to humanitarian role in Gaza

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Sir Tony Blair, former UK prime minister, has let it be known that he would be willing to carry out a humanitarian role in Gaza, if there were a realistic prospect of changing the course of events in the enclave.

Reports in Israel claimed that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, hoped to install Blair as a “humanitarian co-ordinator” in Gaza, building on the former British premier’s experience in the region.

Blair, a former international envoy to the Middle East, had not been offered a role, his office said. But his allies said that he would consider playing a humanitarian role if he thought he could make a real difference.

“As you know, Mr Blair has an office in Israel and has continued to work on issues regarding Israel and the Palestinians,” a spokeswoman for Blair said.

“He is discussing the situation obviously with a number of people in the region and elsewhere to see what can be done. But there is no ‘role’ offered or taken.”

Privately, Blair’s colleagues said he would only consider a role “if it was a genuine chance to change course on the humanitarian side”. One added: “Nothing is discussed or decided yet.”

The Times of Israel cited reports by the Ynet news outlet that Netanyahu believed that Blair could improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and reduce international pressure on Israel as it continues its offensive against Hamas.

Ynet, citing unnamed senior officials, said Netanyahu hoped to leverage Blair’s experience in the region to allay international concerns about the humanitarian situation.

Blair’s refusal to rule out any involvement in the crisis will cause intrigue in Britain, where he remains a controversial figure because of his decision to take the UK to war in Iraq in 2003.

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After leaving Downing Street in 2007 he became an envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet, a grouping comprising the US, EU, UN and Russia, and established an office in East Jerusalem.

Blair was involved in trying to improve economic conditions on the ground for Palestinians and preserving the possibility of an eventual two-state solution. He stepped down from the role in 2015.

He now runs a successful global consultancy-cum-think tank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, and has kept an office in Jerusalem.

Blair’s post-Downing Street activities have long drawn criticism. He confirmed in a Financial Times interview in September that he was, and still is, providing advice to the Saudi government, in spite of the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

He was unapologetic. “For me, the challenge is always ‘Is the leadership trying to do things that we believe are beneficial and of value?’” he said. “If they are, we’ll support them.”

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