Former British Prime Minister and Quartet Middle East Envoy Tony Blair on Wednesday said that the circumstances are ripe for a Middle East peace process, calling all sides to seize the opportunity.
“There exists today a new path to peace. It is based not only on conventional Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but on the potential for a new relationship between the Arab nations and Israel. It is an opportunity of unprecedented promise. We must grasp it with both hands,” Blair told the 2017 Herzliya Conference.
“The credibility of the ‘peace process’ has been profoundly damaged since the Oslo accords. Whatever the explanation, the outcome for the moment is that many Palestinians have concluded that Israel is not serious about negotiating a Palestinian state, and many Israelis have concluded that Palestinian politics is incapable of running one consistent with Israel’s security,” he continued.
“This has led to such a widespread depression about the prospects for peace, that it is possible to miss a movement of momentous historical significance which offers the opportunity to change the whole dynamic in a radical and positive way,” said Blair.
Referring to the situation across the region, Blair noted that “the wider region is undergoing dramatic change and opined, “A democratic State of Israel should be in alliance with the nations of the region, because Israel faces the same external threats and shares the same strategic interests.”
“A new relationship between Arabs and Israelis is definitely today possible; and tantalizingly close,” he added, and went on to stress, “But the key to a true relationship, where there is overt, public and strategic collaboration – remains the Palestinian question. It is possible – indeed I would argue necessary – to find a new way forward to manage and ultimately resolve that question; but it is not possible, in my view, to set it aside.”
Blair stressed the importance of a regional cooperation in any future peace process, saying, “The new way forward is to integrate the regional approach with a traditional negotiation. The engagement of the region provides the strength to help carry any peace process. What is necessary is not only Arab support for a traditional peace negotiation but active engagement with it. Of course the obstacles are also formidable. The legacy of past conflict and mistrust is still visible. The uncertainty persists as to whether what is desirable is achievable. Public opinion in the Arab world is changing but has a long way to go and the Palestinian issue must be on a genuine path to resolution.”
Referring to Gaza, the former British Prime Minister said, “I maintain that leaving it in its present condition – and for this moment let us not debate why this condition exists – threatens all we wish to achieve. I have discussed and put forward proposals, with various interested parties, as to how this situation can be eased particularly around electricity. I hope we find a way through. But I cannot over-state that any peace process which ignores Gaza is a process doomed to fail.”
Blair served as the envoy of the Middle East Quartet until he resigned in 2015, but has continued to act independently to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Reports last year said Blair was on a list of several international figures behind a failed move designed to legitimize the addition of the Zionist Union to the Israeli coalition, in an attempt to then restart peace talks.
Earlier this year, British media reported that Blair had contacts with U.S. President Donald Trump about the possibility of becoming his Middle East adviser. Blair denied the reports.