The man pictured is Mark Regev. He is the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesman, and if his 15 minute interview on this morning's Julian Worricker show on Radio 5 Live is anything to go by, he is a star in the making. Anyone who heard him would have been impressed, regardless of where they stand on the current dispute. Calm, honest and assured he answered every question put to him with a dignity and honesty unusual in Government spin doctors. I wouldn't be surprised to see him have a great future in Israeli politics. More on him HERE.
I didn't get much of a look-in on the programme, but to be honest, with what was going on in Beirut this morning I didn't expect to. However, I did get to put a question to former Clinton policy adviser Nancy Soderberg. She was heaping scorn on George Bush's foreign policy and asserting that he had not idea what diplomacy meant. She then said that Bush and the Israelis were at fault for not doing anything about Hezbollah much earlier, when they knew that they were digging in in Southern Lebanon. I asked her what she thought the reaction would have been if the Israelis had bombed Hezbollah positions a couple of years ago with no provokation at all. I said the Israelis had shown great restraint over the last few years but in the end their patience had snapped. I told her I thought it was a cheek for a Clinton advisor to criticise Bush for doing nothing about Hezbollah when if Clinton had acted more strongly against the Al Qaeda threat he could have possibly stubbed it out before it became so dangerous. She refuted that entirely and said that Clinton had tried to have bin Laden killed.
The decision by the Lebanese PM not to meet Condi Rice is probably a significant development. There's no doubt that it is a blow to US diplomatic efforts. But to those looking for a European initiative I would say to them that it is highly improbable. The positions of the British and French governments are totally unreconcilable. But while the British Foreign Secretary suns herself in her Derbyshire garden the Italian Foreign Minister is at least trying to do something. The Israelis will not agree to a ceasefire which would allow Hezbollah to rearm themselves with fresh supplies delivered through Syria via Iran. But there is a school of thought which thinks the Israelis should call Hezbollah's bluff and announce a 24 hour ceasfire to allow humanitarian aid through. They believe that Hezbollah would be very unlikely to respect such a ceasefire and if they didn't they would hand the moral high ground to Israel. I'm not sure what any of that would achieve, but I suppose it's possible. I cannot see what other conditions there might be for a ceasefire, but there's no doubt that this morning's attach which killed 37 children and 57 in all was a terrible error and must not be repeated. Israel can rightly say that it told civilians to leave Qana, and that Hezbollah were undoubtedly using the town as a launchpads for their rockets, but the scenes of devastation and carnage which have been shown all round the world following the attack are very damaging to the Israeli cause. We have a 24 hour news media which will devour such pictures with relish. Even the silky words of Mark Regev will not be enough to explain this sort of carnage.
The final part of the programme was a review to today's newspaper backpages. Julian Worricker asked me what my advice would be to Wayne Rooney when he meets Cristiano Ronaldo tomorrow in training for the first time since the World Cup. I said I would urge him to follow Alan Shearer's advice and 'deck him'. My Labour counterpart on the programme, Lorraine Davidson, went one further and urged him to 'nut him'. Such irresponsibility on national radio...!