Tony Blair at IDC.
(photo credit: Itzik Edri)
To delegitimize Israel is an affront not only to Israelis, but to those
“everywhere, in every part of humanity, who share the values of a free and
independent human spirit,” Quartet envoy Tony Blair said on Tuesday, in an
exceptionally warm speech at the Interdisciplinary Center in
Blair, the keynote speaker at a conference on the
delegitimization of Israel, said the best answer to those who sought to
delegitimize the Jewish state “lies in the character of Israel itself, in the
openness, fairmindedness and creativity of the Israelis.”
“My advice,” he
said, “is to guide that spirit and keep it.” Blair, who will be taking part in
the launch of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in
Washington next week, said the last 60 years had been “remarkable for you, but
what you have created is a remarkable example for the rest of us.”
discussing the steps Israel needed to take to combat delegitimization efforts,
the former British prime minister said it “should always be a staunch and
unremitting advocate and actor for peace. What I mean by this is not simply that
Israel should want peace, it should advocate it and act to achieve
The negotiations conducted under the Olmert government “played an
immensely important part in showing the world that whatever else they might say,
they have to accept that the government of Israel was genuinely trying to bring
about peace,” Blair said.
Likewise, he said, “the restart of direct
negotiations to be launched next week is important. It is important in itself,
and it is important in that it shows that Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu,
on behalf of the new government of Israel, is an advocate of
Blair said the one-year time frame placed on the talks was also
important because it indicated there was “a simple and sincere yearning on the
part of the people” for peace with the Palestinians.
“I know some are
cynical about the process,” he said.
“I know some say it is all for show.
I reject that view.I think that if Israel can receive real and effective
guarantees about its security, then it is willing and ready to conclude
negotiations for a viable independent Palestinian state. This is a brave
decision by the prime minister, and a right one to engage in the
Blair also said that Israel should deal with legitimate
criticism, and one such piece of legitimate criticism was that more could and
should be done to improve the daily life of the Palestinians.
improvements would not only help the Palestinians, he said, but also dilute “the
most potent fuel, especially in the Arab media,” for the claim that the
Palestinians are not only suffering injustice, but also a form of
“Dignity is a very important concept,” Blair
“Consistent with security, Israel should constantly be looking for
ways to compensate for the indignity which inevitably results sometimes from
security measures, and should seek to avoid any unnecessary
There were two forms of the delegitimization of Israel, Blair
said. The first was “traditional, obvious and, from certain quarters, expected,”
and came from those who openly attacked Israel’s right to exist. Pointing to
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as an example, he said that his form of
delegitimization – calling for Israel to be wiped off the map – was easier to
deal with “because it is so clear.”
The more pernicious form, however,
was not as open, and came from those who were unwilling to recognize
had a legitimate point of view, Blair said.
“The issue of
delegitimization is not simply about an overt denial of Israel’s right
It is the advocating of prejudice in not allowing that Israel has a
view that should be listened to,” he asserted.
Blair said that “a
consistent conversation I have with some, but by no means all, of my
colleagues, is to argue not to apply rules to the government of Israel
would never dream of applying to their own governments or their own