Daily Mail reports Mideast peacemaker pressured Israeli leaders to provide cellular company with frequencies needed to launch network in West Bank
(source: YNet News)
Tony Blair took advantage of his role as Mideast peacemaker to rescue a Palestinian mobile-phone business from bankruptcy, the Daily Mail reported in its Sunday issue.
The report says the company, Wataniya, is owned by a client of the investment banking giant JP Morgan, where Blair is employed as a consultant, but Blair’s office issued a statement saying he had no knowledge of this connection and was acting solely for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority.
Wataniya had already launched an expensive network in the West Bank but then discovered that Israel would not allow it to use the frequencies required. Blair stepped in to save the company by spending months changing the Israeli government’s mind.
Reporter for the Daily Mail David Rose spoke to officials in Israel and the West Bank who claim that the former British prime minister used his influence to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials that saving the company would help boost the Palestinian economy, all the while withholding the information that the Qatari firm controlling it, Qtel, is a major client of JP Morgan.The family of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also stood to gain from Blair's influence, as a company owned by son Tarek Abbas had already signed advertisement contracts with Wataniya.After a three-year struggle, during which Blair never mentioned the various ties revealed in the report, his influence bore fruit. Last November Israel withdrew its objection and the company began to operate.But the report is especially scathing in its criticism towards Blair because, it says, those who stand to gain from the new network are the Palestinian Authority's high-ranking officials, and not its citizens.After the report was published, the former prime minister's office issued a statement saying that "Tony Blair raised Wataniya at the request of the Palestinian Authority in his role as Quartet Representative along with many others in the International Community". "He has no knowledge of any connection between QTel and JP Morgan and has never discussed the issue with JP Morgan nor have they ever raised it with him. Any suggestion that he raised it for any reason other than the one stated to help the Palestinians or that in some way he has benefited from Wataniya is untrue and defamatory," the statement says.Tory MP David Davis called on Blair to unveil his business dealings before the public eye. "There are now clear questions about how he has used his powers as a peace envoy and whether that has benefited his commercial sponsors," he said.