London, MINA – Former British premier and Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair has admitted for the first time that he and other world leaders were wrong to yield to Israeli pressure to impose an immediate boycott of Hamas after it won Palestinian elections in 2006, according to the Guardian newspaper.
The results of the 2006 elections were judged free and fair by international monitors,
At the time, Blair offered strong support for the decision, driven by the George W Bush White House, to halt aid to and sever relations with the newly elected Hamas-led Palestinian Authority unless it agreed to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous agreements between its Fatah predecessors and Israel, but such ultimatum was rejected by Hamas, PIC reported.
Interviewed for a new book “Gaza: Preparing for Dawn,” Blair said: “In retrospect, I think we should have, right at the very beginning, tried to pull [Hamas] into a dialogue and shifted their positions. I think that’s where I would be in retrospect.”
“But, obviously, it was very difficult; the Israelis were very opposed to it. But you know we could have probably worked out a way whereby we did, which in fact we ended up doing anyway, informally.”
Blair did not elaborate on subsequent “informal” dealings with Hamas, but he appears to be referring to clandestine contacts between MI6 and Hamas representatives during and possibly after the kidnap of BBC journalist Alan Johnston by an extreme fundamentalist group in 2007. The kidnappers eventually released Johnston after heavy pressure from the Hamas government.
The Guardian quoted sources as saying that Blair had held at least six lengthy private meetings with Khaled Mishaal, the former Hamas political bureau chief, and his successor Ismail Haneyya.
Those meetings were to explore a possible long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but the international block on official contacts with Hamas eroded western leverage in the region, increased the isolation and suffering of the Gaza public, and helped to drive the Movement into the arms of Iran, all without dislodging it from its dominance of Gaza.(R/R04/P2)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)