More on the $1.3 million lease for Tony Blair's hotel rooms in Jerusalem

He did not get the hilltop Government House, that remnant of the British Mandate in Palestine, with its rose gardens and its proximity to Bethlehem — and just as well, say outraged Palestinians, who believe the political symbolism would have been explosive.

Tony Blair then managed to get the UN Development Programme’s “Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People” to rent and renovate a block of rooms in the legendary and now five-star American Colony Hotel, one of the few places in East Jerusalem where Israeli movers and shakers are willing to go. (It used to be, and sometimes still is, the beloved haunt of visiting high-profile journalists with healthy expense budgets appropriate to the demands of a conflict zone. But it has become so expensive that Palestinians can no longer afford it — and it is now part of the “Luxury Hotels of the World” Group.)

Inner City Press’ Matthew Lee has been on the job — he had the scoop that Tony Blair would be renting office and living space for his time in “the region” for his duties as the new Quartet mediator [see UN-Truth’s pick-up of that post here]. And Matthew now reveals that (1) the U.K. chose the place; (2) that Norway and the U.K.’s development agency are supposed to contribute to the expenses [why, I wonder? Doesn’t the Quartet have a budget?]; and (3) that the UNDP obliged when asked to sign the one-year lease for the rooms at the American Colony Hotel — and apparently UNDP paid up front.

Matthew wrote on 30 October that: “To rent ten rooms in Jerusalem for Quartet envoy Tony Blair, the UN Development Program spent $1.3 million that it did not have commitments for, and signed a lease before any internal review procedure, and without considering comparable prices. The lease, a copy of which Inner City Press has obtained — first page online here, with room number[s] redacted — was dated August 27, for the signature of Roberto Valent, the Special Representative of UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis. Nine days later, when the lease was reviewed in a so-called ACP [?] meeting, numerous irregularities were found: that no comparable rates had been provided, that the UK has chosen the hotel but had UNDP sign that lease, that the even then speculative financing, from Norway and UK DFID, came to less than the $1.3 million cost of the lease. The funds used were from the Administrator’s discretionary fund … In the more than two months since the lease was signed, Tony Blair has been there only a few days. Sources say that others have used the rooms, including most notably a group of female volleyball players. Fitness appears to be a theme: other residents of the American Colony Hotel, in which Blair’s lair is on the fourth floor, have complained about the appropriation to that floor of one of the hotel’s two treadmill running machines. The lease envisions UNDP — on behalf of the so-called ‘Quartet Blair Mission’ — making alterations and improvements to the ten-room spread, including the installation of security film on the windows. (The reference here is to the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, a UN mission destroyed by a truck bomb in 2003, with most deaths caused by flying glass from filmless windows.) The lease also provides for the eventuality of the ‘total destruction’ of the hotel. As may be significant, the Quartet Blair Mission is not allowed to sublet the space. So who, informed sources want to know, gave access to the volleyball team? Developing…” Matthew Lee’s Inner City post on the $1.3 million lease signed by UNDP for Tony Blair is here.