Hooray, Tony Blair is back a-questin' for peace in his role as middle east envoy! I wonder how he's furthering the cause of amity and freedom today?
Oh, uh... Right. Okay then.
Well, let's not automatically join in the general hate-harsh on Tony every time he opens his mouth. The good points first - he didn't rollerskate onstage, wearing a Beitar Jerusalem strip and smoking a fat cigar. He didn't don goggles and charge about the room making jet fighter noises and shouting dakka-dakka-dakka! or get down on his knees and lovingly fellate the entire Israeli political and pundit class line-by-line. Well, except metaphorically...
...And it must be said that, when Tony talks about people who won't ever admit that the Israelis have a point on anything, he's not just blowing smoke. There are a lot of these people about, boring the hell out of everyone, although in my experience they tend to be an internet-based phenomenon. Those awful Liberal dinner parties haven't become ubiquitous quite yet.
And he does tell the conference that the Palestinians should be more fairly treated, and with more respect for their dignity, which is nice. Admittedly, he does it while calling Benyamin Netanyahu "an advocate for peace", which is a little like calling Hamas "advocates for synagogues", but I'm sure he means well.
And still, damn, it's some vintage Blair waffle. Let's be charitable here, and see what we can take away.
First and foremost, let's grant that the topic of his speech - "delegitimisation" of Israel - actually represents some kind of vague threat to the state, rather than being a trumped-up pile of alarmist horseshit.
It's a stretch, since the Israelis currently enjoy absolute military supremacy over every feasible enemy and are, as has been repeatedly proven, diplomatically bulletproof from any kind of international attempt to prevent them doing whatever the hell they like. Nonetheless, let's accept that Tony believes that this isn't the case.
Further, when Tony's explanation for international revulsion at the ultraviolent and intentionally destructive 2006 attack on Lebanon is to note that television images of the ultraviolence and intentional destruction "are so shocking that they tend to overhelm debate about how or why the conflict began", we may smell a rat, but let it pass.
Couple that with his only reference to the Mavi Marmara incident, which is that the awful delegitimisers "won't accept that Israel might have a right to search vessels into Gaza" - ORLY? - and his casual fucking-off of the whole Operation Cast Lead debacle, and we could be forgiven for thinking that we're being served up some industrial-strength propaganda here.
Like I say though, we'll grant the lot in the interest of open-mindedness. Here's what we're left with...
"(The problem...) ...Is a disjunction of perception... To those outside, Israel is regularly perceived as arrogant, overbearing and aggressive..."
"...It is our collective duty... to arm ourselves with an argument and a narrative we can defend and with which we can answer the case against Israel, with pride and confidence".
Is that - is that the independent envoy for the quartet, representing the UN, the EU, the US and Russia, telling the Israeli political class that they're entirely in the right and urging them to come up with better lies to feed to the press?
Uh, yes, it is. It's an unusually partial stance for an independent envoy to take, but no doubt he knows what he's doing.
But then, that's Blairism all over - it isn't your actions that count, it's how you present them to the world. Thus was craven headline-chasing turned into an act of high political principle; then, you know, Iraq and so on1; thus does international horror at Israeli jets blowing up bakeries, petrol stations, ports, airports etc. become a problem of perception, rather than an appalling and unnecessary crime.
Publicly telling the entire planet to go fuck itself if it doesn't like it becomes an interesting cultural quirk, with the right branding.
If readers might think that this stuff casts Tony's behaviour in office in a new light - say, his decision to sit on his hands while the Israelis fruitlessly blasted the hell out of Beirut - you'd be right to do so.
I mean, you'd almost think that by employing this man as their envoy, the various powers were indicating that they have no interest in peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and were merely playing out an empty charade designed to give the Israelis space and time to impose their own settlement.
Well, you might just be right about that too.
Ah, Tony Blair. You have to admire his raw honesty.
Update! While I'm at it, there's a classic Blair line in there. Check this out...
"I had an argument with a friend about Israel. I said to them: 'ok let's assume you are charged with a crime you didn't commit and the penalty is 20 years in prison. And you're a critic of the Government. Tell me: under which country's legal system, in this region, would you prefer to be tried?' He struggled for a bit and then said: 'that's not the point.' 'But it is' I replied".
Now, I can see what he's trying to say, and there's a ghost of a good point in there. Sure, I'd prefer to be tried in Israel than, say, Syria. I'd far rather live in the former, if those were the only choices.
Still, Tony's question does rather demand the counter-question Would you rather be locked into an open-air prison with one and a half million of your compatriots and suffer a process of intentional economic strangulation aimed at forcing your compliance by a democracy or a tyranny?
1. One of the many hilarious sights that you'll occasionally see on sites run by Tony's fans is some crazy Israeli partisan demanding to know why the UK and the US are allowed to charge all over the world blowing motherfuckers up left, right and centre, but the Israelis aren't? It's like pouring lager into a MacBook - sparks, whirrs, flashing lights... does not compute, phut-bang!