Blair 'feels betrayed by Bush on Lebanon'
By SIMON WALTERS
19th August 2006
The alliance between George Bush and Tony Blair is in danger after it was revealed that the Prime Minister believes the President has 'let him down badly' over the Middle East crisis.
A senior Downing Street source said that, privately, Mr Blair broadly agrees with John Prescott, who said Mr Bush's record on the issue was 'crap'.
The source said: "We all feel badly let down by Bush. We thought we had persuaded him to take the Israel-Palestine situation seriously, but we were wrong. How can anyone have faith in a man of such low intellect?"
The disclosure comes ahead of a mini recall of Parliament to allow MPs to vent their fury over Mr Blair's handling of Israel's war with Hezbollah and whether the recent terror plot in Britain was affected by his role in the Iraq war.
Foreign Affairs Minister Kim Howells, who has criticised Israeli attacks on women and children, is to be summoned before an emergency meeting next month of the Labour-dominated Commons foreign affairs select committee.
The highly unusual move to allow a Parliament evidence session during the summer recess mirrors emergency meetings called after the July 7 bombings in London.
The rift between No10 and the White House stems from British anger that Mr Bush failed to do enough to pursue the 'road map' to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, which he approved, at Mr Blair's instigation, on the eve of the Iraq war.
"We have been banging on at them for three years about the need to address the Palestinian problem but they just won't engage," said a senior Government insider. "That is one of the reasons there is such a mess now."
It is understood Mr Blair hopes to undertake a highly controversial one-man mission to the Middle East when he returns from his holiday, including a trip to war-torn Lebanon.
Until now, the Prime Minister has given Mr Bush 100 per cent backing on all foreign policy issues since the Iraq war in 2003. But Mr Blair's refusal to distance himself publicly from the White House's all-out support for Israel's attacks on Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon has enraged Labour MPs and several Ministers.
However, a Downing Street official said: "We believe our best approach is to use our influence with the American government to persuade them of the importance of making progress to achieve peace in the Middle East."
Mr Blair's advisers say his portrayal by critics as Mr Bush's 'poodle' is a travesty and claim he gets results by hammering out their differences in private.
But they do not deny that, behind the facade of public support, Downing Street's patience with Mr Bush has never been stretched so far.
The decision by the foreign affairs committee to stage its emergency debate on September 13 - after Mr Blair opposed calls for a full recall of Parliament - is a further reflection of backbench unrest.
MPs have been demanding that the Government explains its stance on the crisis, which saw Mr Blair back Israel's use of force against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon which has left hundreds of civilians dead and thousands homeless.
Mr Howells will be questioned over the Government's handling of the crisis, which has seen the Cabinet deeply divided over Israel's actions. He will also be asked to update MPs on the latest UN peacekeeping efforts which will see thousands of international troops deployed into a buffer zone on the Israel-Lebanon border.
Labour committee member Eric Illsley confirmed that the committee would take evidence from Mr Howells on September 13. He said: "There has been a public clamour for a full recall of Parliament."
Meanwhile John Prescott has been involved in another foul-mouthed incident over Tony Blair's policy on the Middle East, it was claimed last night.
He is said to have had a heated exchange with Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, one of the few Cabinet Ministers to defend Mr Blair's stance on Israel's war with Hezbollah, when the conflict was raised during a Cabinet meeting and Lord Falconer denied that Ministers had disagreed on the issue.
Mr Prescott, one of the Ministers who led the revolt, allegedly snapped at Lord Falconer: "Of course they f****** did, you were f****** there."