A reliable source has indicated that Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister who is now the part-time Special Middle East Envoy of the Quartet, is moving his office out of the legendary American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem.
Blair’s presence — and its overbearing security requirements — has contributed to ruining the American Colony Hotel’s former unique atmosphere as the meeting place for Palestinian political and economic notables with international visitors and the occasional Israeli official.
The American Colony — now a five-star establishment, one of the Leading Hotels in the World, run by Swiss hotel management — is also now too expensive for most Palestinians, who have moved en masse up the road and up the hill to the Ambassador Hotel, where le-tout-jerusalem-est can now be seen doing business throughout the day and evening [nobody stays up late in East Jerusalem, where there is no night life, but insomniacs].
[The American Colony has managed to fill the void by receiving the Shabbat weekend business of nouveau riche Israeli businessmen and their highly made-up fertility goddess wives in skin tight clothes, who feel safe enough there despite the titillatingly exotic location, and who do enjoy the buffets. The late-Ottoman-era central courtyard with bubbling fountain and lemon trees, and the summer garden with tall palm trees and a grassy lawn remain popular places to sit and relax, despite the change in clientele.]
Now that Blair has ruined the American Colony, he’s following the Palestinian notables up the road and up the hill to a new building, constructed by a member of the Nashashibi family, just below the Ambassador Hotel on Nablus Road.
There goes the neighborhood.
And the parking availability.
Last year, during the UNRWA strike, its management moved out [or were blocked out] of their Sheikh Jarrah field headquarters, and decamped — with all their UN cars and their drivers and their laptops — to the Ambassador Hotel, sorely testing the staff and the regulars. The Blair presence will probably be about the same, if not worse. And, the greater expense account capability of his colleagues and visitors will also probably have a severely inflationary impact on the Ambassador Hotel restaurant menu.
Blair will reportedly be renting the whole new almost-finished Nashashibi building on Nablus Road for something around $1.2 million dollars a year, which is just about what his office used to be paying the American Colony Hotel until now.
The payment was being processed through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which in Jerusalem has run for almost two decades a special Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People [PAPP].
Blair’s security people are putting the final touches on the special systems they are installing, and construction is being rushed to completion.
It’s a sign, of course, that neither Blair nor the Quartet is about to throw in the towel and quit — even though the peace process they were supposed to encourage is now moribund, and the situation is at a tense and dangerous impasse…
(It is not clear if Blair’s residential address, for the one-week-per-month that he spends in Israel/Palestine will change as well, or whether Blair will keep a room in the American Colony Hotel, or will simply check in whenever he arrives, like any ordinary business traveller.)