From Khalid Amayreh in occupied Hebron
Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy to Palestine-Israel, has been holding meetings with Palestinian officials in the West Bank , ostensibly to discuss ways and means to revive the moribund Palestinian economy, decimated by an increasingly Nazi-like Israeli repression.
The former British Prime Minister on Wednesday, 10 October, met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and reportedly discussed with him creating “economic incentives” that would be conducive to creating the right environment for advancing peace between the Palestinians and Israel .
In Hebron , Blair met with the Governor of Hebron Hussein al Araj and town’s mayor Khalid al Oseili, both appointed by Abbas.
Hebron is considered a Hamas stronghold.
The two local officials briefed Blair on the political and economic situation in Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, where hundreds of extremist Jewish settlers, backed by the Israeli army, routinely attack Arabs and vandalize their property.
“We told Mr. Blair that economic revival is very difficult under the current political and security situation,” Oseili told reporters after the meeting.
“In order to have normal economic activities, you’ve got to have freedom of movement and a free flow of goods and services. And given the draconian Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement within the West Bank, it is extremely difficult to conduct normal economic activities.”
Asked if he sensed or detected any modicum of honesty in the tone of Blair’s words, Oseili evaded the question, saying “I am an optimistic person.”
Asked further if he would give Blair the benefit of the doubt, the Hebron mayor said “my job is to lay out the bare facts to whomever is willing to listen.”
Earlier, some Hebron businessmen and entrepreneurs accused Blair of seeking “to bribe the Palestinians into giving up the right of return in exchange of economic aide.”
“This man is deceitful and duplicitous and can’t be trusted. Besides, he should have understood a long time ago, while he was Britain’s Prime Minister, that the problem in Palestine is this Nazi Jewish occupation which prevents normal economic activities,” said Abu Ahmed Qasrawi.
“How can we have normal economic activities in the West Bank when we are not allowed to travel on our own roads, when Israeli military roadblocks, manned by young, trigger-happy, Gestapo-like soldiers kill every semblance of normal life, economic and otherwise.?”
In Ramallah, Blair reportedly told Abbas that a prospective political settlement of the conflict with Israel wouldn’t survive and be durable without economic prosperity.
According to PA officials, Abbas welcomed Blair’s interest in uplifting living conditions of Palestinians. However, Abbas told him that the basic problem in Palestine was the Israeli occupation which precludes normal economic activities.
In Hebron , Blair avoided reporters and refused to answer questions.
Most Palestinian journalists and cameramen boycotted Blair’s visit to Hebron after PA crack police verbally assaulted reporters, threatening to smash their cameras.
Eventually, a few foreign journalists, including this reporter, managed to enter Hebron City Hall, but were not allowed to ask questions.
One Palestinian journalist said he would have asked Blair how he thought future Arab and Muslim generations would view him in light of his key role in engineering the Anglo-American invasion and destruction of Iraq , which has so far caused the death of nearly a million Iraqis.
Predictably, Blair is deeply despised in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as through the Arab-Muslim world for his close association with George Bush’s “war on terror,” which is widely viewed by Muslims as a western crusade against their own religion.
Blair is also hated for supporting Israel’s genocidal campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza which killed and maimed thousands of civilians and caused widespread damage to civilian infrastructure.