Israel courts Tony Blair


(TIMES OF ISRAEL) Israel is seeking to install former British prime minister Tony Blair as a humanitarian coordinator for the Gaza Strip, according to a report, out of a desire to improve the humanitarian situation inside the enclave and reduce international pressure as it continues its war on Hamas.

The Ynet news outlet, citing unnamed senior officials, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to leverage Blair’s experience as former envoy to the region for the Middle East Quartet to temper international concerns over the civilian cost of Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

The report indicated Blair has been contacted on the matter and talks have been ongoing in recent weeks. The former British leader’s office told Ynet in response, “Mr Blair maintains an office in Israel and he continues to work on matters tied to Israel and the Palestinians. Understandably, he has conversations with people in the region and other places in order to see what can be done, but he was not given or offered the role.”

Ynet said the exact definition, scope and authority of the proposed role had not yet been clearly defined, adding that there would be an emphasis on “providing medical treatment and medicines, and on the possibility of evacuating the wounded and sick from the Strip.”

According to the report, efforts at easing the humanitarian situation in Gaza are being coordinated by Israel’s health and defence ministries, with the former assisting in a number of projects in recent weeks, including efforts by international actors to set up field hospitals in Egypt and the arrival of a hospital ship from France.

The Defence Ministry and the IDF also understand that in order to obtain time for the war against Hamas, the military’s actions in Gaza need to be seen as legitimate, and that legitimacy is conditional on the humanitarian situation.

Last week, Israel announced it would be formalising the humanitarian pauses it has been observing in northern Gaza in order to allow for evacuations to the south, away from the bulk of the fighting.

On Sunday, COGAT, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, said that 14,320 tons of humanitarian aid had entered the Strip since the beginning of the war.

“There is no limit to the amount of food, water and medical equipment that can enter Gaza,” COGAT said. “We invite the international community to coordinate and we will facilitate.”

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