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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments