It was in 2003 that I realised something fundamental had changed. The door to the room in which I was sitting flew open. In stalked a figure still dressed in a dark overcoat and scarf. He evidently could contain himself no longer. I was in Downing Street with the prime minister's foreign affairs adviser, David Manning; the overcoated figure bursting into our meeting was Jack Straw. He wanted to tell Manning that he had persuaded Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, to add Hamas to the EU list of terrorist movements. His tale of his conversion of Fischer was wrapped in expressions of outrage at Hamas. It wasn't so much the proscription that shocked me. A ceasefire, which I had helped facilitate, had broken down. What was new was the elation with which Straw greeted the banning. I don't know what Manning thought, but he will have been aware that the terrorist 'list' is one of those things from which it's almost impossible to get a name removed. The consequences for diplomacy, for the politics of peace-making, would be profound, possibly irreversible; but Straw wasn't worried. Manning, I knew, believed strongly that there could be no solution to the Israel-Palestine issue without Hamas involvement and had firmly supported EU efforts at inclusive peace-building. Officially, the EU remained committed to a political solution, but it now seemed that two key member states were heading in the opposite direction - towards a militarised resolution. The wind had changed.
LRB 3 March 2011 | PDF Download