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Blair: 'Disengagement Was Nightmare,' But Seeks More Withdrawals

Tony Blair concedes that if he were Israeli, he would not support further withdrawals following the “nightmare” of Disengagement.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 12/13/2007, 10:34 AM

Quartet envoy Tony Blair conceded Wednesday that if he were Israeli he would hesitate to support further withdrawals following the “nightmare” of the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza. Blair is, however, urging Israel to cede more land to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The former British prime minister addressed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, where he proceeded to dismiss security concerns and declare that Israel “must continue with the peace process despite security concerns.”

"I understand and sympathize with the problems that the [Israelis] are having,” Blair said. “For people on the outside it is hard to understand, [but] today I understand more than when I was the prime minister the difficulties here."

Blair, who now represents the US, UN, EU and Russia – known as the ‘Quartet’ - told the MKs that the PA officials were even more nervous about the risks entailed in the political process, than the Israeli MKs, themselves.

MK Limor Livnat asked Blair to explain why Fatah Chief and PA President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Blair declined to offer and answer.

Earlier this week, Blair spent the night at a hotel in PA-controlled Bethlehem in an effort to prove to Christian tourists that the PA is a safe place to visit ahead of the Christian holidays. "It's a safe and good place to come and visit and stay overnight," he told reporters.

Blair was presented with a wooden sculpture carved out of the root of an olive tree. The PA Minister of Tourism told Blair the tree was special “because it was fashioned out of a 200-year-old tree uprooted by the Israelis.”

The IDF has uprooted hundreds of olive trees to clear the way for the construction of the Partition Wall. They are either replanted elsewhere or their owners compensated.