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Tony Blair & the Quartet ... Where are You?

Fadi Abu Sada- Since Tony Blair was appointed as a envoy to the International Quartet Committee for Palestine and Israel and the Middle East generally, we heard about meetings and meetings between Blair and the Palestinians and Israelis, or joint meetings. We heard about launching economic projects, and about easing restrictions in order to facilitate Palestinians lives. Today we still hear about Israeli promises to remove several checkpoints from West Bank roads.

I do not know whether Blair thought that Israel, after announced the removal of 66 military checkpoints in the West Bank, indicating that it had removed only 44 of them, mostly sand road blocks and not major ones, had impacted Palestinians lives, or facilitated them. The facts were confirmed in a United Nations report. Perhaps Blair did not read the report.

The World Bank report also stresses that the Quartet Committee, led by Blair in our region, has not done anything about the economy and movement between cities, especially with regard to the checkpoints issue. The World Bank’s recent report stated that due to Israeli measures, the Palestinian economy is a disaster. The report stated explicitly that there has been no growth in the Palestinian economy in the current year of 2008 despite the promises of the Paris conference to provide 7.7 Billion dollars.

There has been no growth at the level of GDP over the past year of 2007 for the Palestinian economy. All of this is confirmed by the World Bank report, which also indicates that Israel’s failure to remove checkpoints and continuing the closures, for example, will lead the unemployment rate in Gaza from 33 percent to a rate of 96 percent, which is extremely dangerous.

Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad will leave for London on Wednesday to participate in meetings of the Steering Committee of Donor Countries. Fayyad will talk mainly about removing the checkpoints and ending the closures and siege in order to improve economic conditions, in addition to stopping all settlement activity. Where is the International Quartet in these matters? They appear to have gone missing.

The Palestine Investment Conference is nearly upon us, and although Israel may seek to remove some checkpoints to gain points in front of the international community, the Quartet should work not to make it only a play before and during the conference, to be a continuing reality.

We are frankly tired of promises and plans, and more tired of international conferences, both the political and the economic, because they have proved thus far that all of it leads nowhere. As we stand here on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba, where are we?

Where we are is in the same place. I do not want to say that we have been walking in place for 60 years, maybe this is unfair, but for at least nearly two decades, we have not moved an inch except as we lose more. The Palestinian leadership has not worked well, the occupation has demonstrated its normal intransigence, and the Quartet, who claims to work for us, has gone missing. As we tread water, we wait for our search boat to return with an explanation.