Apparently caught between a desire to lodge his head in Ehud Olmert's rectum and concern about overwhelming opposition to Israeli aggression in the UK, Blair has set himself in opposition to a meaningful ceasefire (i.e. one which isn't simply an Israeli victory by any other name) while trying to present himself as a bringer of peace. Typically, much of the media have lapped this up (witness the almost laughable headline attached to this article).
According to the Beeb, "Mr Blair has maintained that, for any truce to work both Israel and Hezbollah had to be engaged in it," which looks suspiciously like a statement of the obvious. The problem is that implicit within this thesis is a belief that only Israel is interested in peace. Quoth the man himself in an interview with Nick Robinson:
It cannot be that Israel stops taking the action it's taking but Hezbollah continue to kill, kidnap, and launch rockets into the north of Israel at the civilian population there.The obvious problem with this statement is that it glosses over the fact that Hezbollah have supported calls for a ceasefire, it is the Israelis who are intransigent. Some of his other comments are even more telling
If we can achieve a basis for a ceasefire that will allow Israel's security to be protected and the international community to be engaged in sorting out the south of Lebanon... then of course that's the right way to proceed.Note that a ceasefire which will allow Lebanon's security to be protected and rescue the Lebanese civillians caught up in the Israeli bombardment, is apparently not "the right way to proceed."
Blair's position on the assault seems to be fuelling increasing dischord within the ranks of the Labour Party, which has even reached into the Cabinet, usually an oasis of obeisance. Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has put himself forward as the most prominent in-house critic of British foreign policy on the matter, telling "Muslim leaders" in his Blackburn constituency that Israeli actions "only escalates a dangerous situation". Straw also endorsed comments, made earlier this week by Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells: "Kim was right to say if Israel are 'chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah... don't go for the entire Lebanese nation'." Some more excitable media sources have framed this as Straw leading a revolt, but the Cabinet have rallied around in the usual fashion and dismissed reports of a split.
While all this has been growing on, the extent of British support for Israel has been emphasised by reports of US flights to the country being refuelled in the UK, including at Prestwick Airport. Sources have described their cargo only as "hazardous," but it is widely believed to be munitions which may well end up being used against Lebanon. Speaking in California yesterday, Blair tossed the finger to critics of the flights, opining: "We should just apply the rules in the appropriate way, which is what we are doing... What happens at Prestwick airport is not going to determine whether we get a ceasefire in the Lebanon." No doubt Our Glorious Leader actually believes such cant, but it is far from clear that it is true. Allowing such flights amounts to a tacit - if not explicit - endorsement of Israeli actions and may embolden the Israeli government, to say nothing of the use to which the cargo is likely to be put.
Some people may find Blair's appeasment of Israel inexplicable, although it is hardly anything new. As Mark Curtis has pointed out, the UK began eying Israel up as a major trading partner since the 60s in contrast to the Arab world, where "prospects for economic dealings" were likely to decline. Combine this with Blair's ideological commitment to the "War on Terror" which has already seen the US and UK visit comparable (if not worse) destruction upon Afghanistan and Iraq and the fawning relationship with George Bush which has characterised this premiership and you've got a heady, if distasteful, mix.