Leading article: No better time to break with Bush


A week in the history of the special relationship began with Tony Blair a supplicant at the table of the US President, and ended with Israel on the brink of a ground war in Lebanon with the support of only two governments in the world: the US and the UK. On Monday, the British Prime Minister - greeted with asymmetrical informality, "Yo, Blair" - in effect asked George Bush's permission to go out and talk to the parties. Permission was refused. "I think Condi is going to go pretty soon," said the President. She will arrive today, too late to negotiate an immediate ceasefire, and giving every appearance of being there simply to defend Israel's right to escalate the violence.

Mr Bush, caught on an open microphone at the G8 in St Petersburg, was blunt about the call by Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, for a cessation of hostilities: "I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically, 'Ceasefire, and everything sorts out.'"

Mr Blair appeared not to pick up straight away the hint that the President wanted to allow the Israelis to continue their onslaught. "I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is," Mr Blair said. "But you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral."

Mr Bush's response was, in effect: let it spiral. Thus the emptiness of Mr Blair's claim of influence - and independence - was once again exposed. He offered to act as a mediator to urge restraint, was brushed aside, and ended the week as the backing vocal to the President's unconditional support for Israel. Little wonder that most people in this country feel that it is fair to describe their Prime Minister as Mr Bush's "poodle", according to today's Communicate Research poll for this newspaper. Little wonder, too, that most of those expressing an opinion feel that Mr Blair's dogged devotion has prevented Britain from playing a more constructive role in the Middle East.

What, we are entitled to ask once more, has this country gained from a foreign policy stance of such subservience? What have we gained - apart from a joint responsibility for a disastrous war in Iraq and an association with an Israeli policy of disproportionate self- defence? The Independent on Sunday abhors the Hamas and Hizbollah tactic of deliberately killing civilians and sympathises with the Israelis who have endured the terror of rockets for months. It is conceivable, even, that we might have accepted an element of disproportionality in Israel's response if there were any evidence that such a response was effective. But 15 Israeli civilians for 300 Lebanese? Even if half the Lebanese casualties were armed militia, that implies an "exchange rate", as Robert Fisk puts it, of 10 to one. And has Hizbollah been "significantly weakened", as is alleged to be the Israeli objective? No. The fact that the Israeli Defence Forces are now poised on the brink of re-invading Lebanon is an admission that the aerial bombing campaign has been a failure.

The alternative, of patiently strengthening the Lebanese armed forces in order to root out Hizbollah, possibly with international troops in a buffer zone on the Israeli border, is unattractive in many ways and fraught with danger. But it has to be a better option than encouraging Israel once again to fight an unwinnable war in southern Lebanon. That is the disastrous course that Mr Bush has taken. It will only help to recruit a new generation of fighters dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel. Now more than ever it must be in Mr Blair's interest, as well as being the right course, for the British government to show some independence.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home