Analysis By Khalid Amayreh
"........The Bush administration, bullied by an extraordinarily powerful Jewish lobby, reportedly asked Blair to refrain from discussing "matters of substance" and "final-status issues" pertaining to the Palestinian question. Instead, the Bush administration asked Blair to focus on technical matters, including building PA institutions and mobilizing support for the Ramallah-based government.
An unidentified source at the Israeli Prime Minister's office was quoted by the Ha'aretz newspaper on 21 July as expressing the hope that Blair "wouldn't seek to broaden this mandate and attempt to negotiate sensitive political issues." "The way we understand his mandate is that he will concentrate on building institutions in the Palestinian Authority to bolster the chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and this is what we will discuss with him"......
On the other side, Palestinian officials insist that Blair's entire mission will fail unless he tackles the core issues and effects a momentum toward ending the 40-year-old Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. "The central problem of the conflict is the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian homeland. So, if he is not going to discuss this issue, then what is the point of his presence here?" said an aide to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian official accused Israel of trying to undercut Blair's mission by eviscerating it of substance. "They want him to confine his mission to technical matters such as building institutions and coordinating foreign aide. These are very secondary matters. The problem is not foreign aid or building institutions. Indeed, how can institutions be built under this evil military occupation. The problem is the occupation."......
"You can't ignore Hamas and its supporters and dream of having peace and stability in this part of the world. Hamas and Muslims are the key to peace since the western-backed regimes don't really represent the masses," said Yahya Mousa, a Hamas lawmaker in Gaza.
However, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said Hamas wouldn't boycott Blair. "We won't say no to anyone, including Tony Blair. We are willing to maintain ties with anyone as long as it isn't the occupier." Israel has voiced apprehension following suggestions that Blair might decide to meet with some Hamas officials. An Israeli spokeswoman described the prospect of such a meeting as "totally unacceptable."
Meanwhile, most Palestinian commentators gave Blair zero chance of success in his mission. Palestinian commentator Hani al Masri cited several handicaps which he said would decidedly determine Blair's mission. "First of all, he is not authorized to discuss the core issues and his mandate is very very limited. Second, we all know that Blair has very little leverage on Israel, hence his ability to effect peace is very limited. "Besides, there is no real chance for peace unless there is a phenomenally massive international pressure on Israel to give up the spoils of the 1967 war, and I don't see this kind of pressure coming forth with this or any other visit.
"In short, this mission will have the same fate and same failure as previous mission.""