WASHINGTON – Quartet envoy Tony Blair slammed the view that isolating Gaza hurts
Hamas and argued that helping civilians there would increase the chances of
peace, in an address to a leading Palestinian group.RELATED:Blair praises gov't's move to allow more Gaza exports
“It is absolutely
clear that improving the lives of people in Gaza improves the prospects of
peace,” he told the Washington- based American Task Force for Palestine on
Wednesday, decrying the “mistaken view which is that if Gaza is isolated,
somehow Hamas is weakened.”
He stressed the importance of expanding not
just humanitarian provisions to Gaza but also reconstruction, water, sanitation,
and electricity capacity as well.
Blair, who serves as the representative
for the Middle East Quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – called on the
international community to do more to support state-building efforts among
Palestinians as the best path to bringing about a two-state
Blair and the American Task Force for Palestine have been
deeply involved in that program, directed by Palestinian Authority Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad, which has included training PA security forces,
developing the private sector and building government institutions.
noted that this work had facilitated greater movement and access within the West
Bank, and cited specific proposals to build a new city, Rawabi, outside Ramallah
and potentially extend Palestinian development in Areas B and C, as well as A.
Under the Oslo Accords, Area A is under full control of the Palestinian
Authority, Area B is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security
control, and Area C is under full Israeli control, except over Palestinian
“The core challenge now is to rebuild the credibility of the
process, to rebuild trust that such a process will lead to an outcome of a
secure State of Israel and a secure state of Palestine,” Blair said, referring
to the lack of belief on both sides that the negotiations would bear fruit after
years of failed efforts.
“If all we do is simply have a conventional
political negotiation, then I think we will continue to go round in circles,” he
said. But success on the state-building efforts, he added, will “build support
for that political negotiation.”
Blair supported the US decision to
abandon efforts to forge another temporary settlement freeze and pursue a
different path to negotiations, according to a statement he released at the time
of the announcement.
He said that as the US resumed its efforts to get to
direct talks between the parties, “that negotiation has to be conducted in a
reasonably confidential and guided way.”
Blair stressed that “I am and
always have been an advocate of Palestinian statehood,” adding that he couldn’t
imagine a resolution to the conflict that didn’t involve an independent,
sovereign Palestinian state.
“What’s the alternative?” he asked. “A
one-state solution, I can’t quite see it myself, as anything that remotely