Former British prime minister Tony Blair is launching his new Faith Foundation whose aim is to increase dialogue and interaction between people of different religions. Blair was an Anglican and shortly after leaving office converted to the Catholic religion. He mentioned that as a political leader he relied upon religion during difficult times. “The worst thing in politics is when you’re so scared of losing spport that you don’t do wha tyou think is the right thing.” That is why he turned to faith which he claims gives a person “a certain strength and give you a support in doing a job as difficult as leading a country and gives you that strength and support.”
The Blair Foundation will bring together people of various faiths to work on joint projects such as dealing with disease in order to demonstrate what comes when people of different religions cooperate.
An individual’s faith is a personal matter, but it is sad Tony Blair during the past several months has not done very much to bring together Jews and Muslims in the Middle East. He has refused to speak out against Israel policies in Gaza and has failed to work towards genuine compromise in which each side would have to surrender some of their goals. He has come across as an ineffectual leaders who lacks vision and is unable to project a concern for Muslims. Perhaps, the image that emerges is incorrect and Blair has a genuine desire to come across as impartial, but he must accept some responsibility for failure of his Middle East mission.
If Tony Blair seeks to gain respect, he must begn with an honest evaluation of his mistake in proceeding with American plans to invade Iraq. Unless, he is honest, how can he expect others to surrender their incorrect beliefs?
Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff told a conference in Jerusalem the United States was making progress in the fight to win the hearts of Muslims but the effort was being underminded by “sources of cynicism in our society that cannot distinguish between our actions and the actions of terrorists, that treat everything as equivalent, that view appeasement as the best course of dealing with the enemy.” He believes Muslim communities “have seen their religion highjacked by a group of ideologues,” but hopefully Muslims are finally understanding the Bush policies are on the right track and that Israel does not make mistakes. Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni complained the international community must stop making moral equivalences between civilians killed by suicide bombers and civilians killed during operations against terrorists.
There have been few suicide bombers killing Israelis during the past several months but there has been the killing of dozens of Gaza civilians by Israel armed forces during their operations against militants. A Gaza mother or father whose child has been killed obtains scant comfort from knowledge the “good guys” had to kill them to avoid being killed by the “bad guys.” There have been numerous opportunities offered by Hamas and Egyptian mediators to implement a cease fire in Gaza but the Olmert government has refused to take the first step. Of course, a first step offers risks, but doing nothing can be equally as dangerous.
The new book by Scott McClellan offers ample evidence the Bush administration has lied to the American people and to the world. The Bush administration currently is negotiating with terrorist North Korea, has backed Israel negotiation with terrorist Syria, is negotiating with the terrorist regime of President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and certainly has relations with Communist China, but Chertoff insists anyone who seeks to negotiate with terrorism is guilt of appeasement. Does this include the Bush administration?
President Bush and the Israeli government insist their policy of non-negotiation with terrorist groups like Hezbollah is working and will prove productive in bringing democracy to the Middle East. During the past few weeks, Hezbollah faced down opponents in Lebanon, including the army, and showed the world it controlled Beirut and could decide if the nation had a functioning government. There are UN peacekeeping vessels off the Lebanese coast supposedly to prevent the influx of arms, but Hezbollah is militarily stronger than ever and ready to take on the Israel army. Hezbollah and its allies, the Shiite Amal Party and the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian General Michel Aoun, will control 11 seats in the new coalition Cabinet and be able to block any legislation.
Intelligence sources believe Hezbollah now has about 27,000 medium range misiles, some of which could even teach Tel Aviv. The group has received extensive funding from Iran and Syria which has enabled the purchase of anti-tank weapons and rocket launchers. Ironically, the main hope of Israel is reaching an agreement with Syria in which that nation ceased arming Hezbollah.
If Israel and the United States had initiated negotiations with Syria or Iran years ago, Hezbollah would be a minor player in the drama of the Middle East. But, Bush thought a get tough policy would work as did Israel. They now are living with the fruits of their mistakes.