Tony Blair at IDC.
(photo credit: Itzik Edri)
“If something is worth it, never give up until it is done,” said Tony Blair, the
Quartet’s Middle East Envoy, on Monday with regard to efforts to resolve the
conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians.
Analysis: Blair has major, unheralded role in Mideast talks
Blair: Quartet talks were not a failure, talks must resume
Blair, the former prime
minister of the United Kingdom, who was speaking in Tel Aviv at the first
International Conference for Regional Coordination, calculated that this was his
70th visit to Israel in his present capacity.
The conference, which was
the brainchild of Deputy Prime Minister and Regional Development Minister Silvan
Shalom, was actually focused on economic cooperation, which mostly serves as a
means to paving the path to peace and not as a substitute for a political
“Anything by way of economics can never be a substitute for
politics,” said Blair. But as far as resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict
is concerned, he perceived what he called “an intimate relationship between
economics, politics and security.”
He did acknowledge that building the
economy “helps politics to work.”
Blair said that he was trying to find a
framework that would bring the two sides back to the negotiation
“Unless there is a political settlement,” he warned, “there’s not
going to be the regional cooperation there should be.”
This is why
negotiations should resume as soon as possible, “because the potential for
cooperation is enormous.”
The absence of negotiations, he added, creates
frustration all around. What he was trying to achieve, he said, was the
possibility of an agreed framework.
Commenting on the prevailing unrest
in the region, Blair noted the difference between public protest in Israel and
Syria. “What Assad is doing to his people is monstrous and wrong and in the end
he won’t remain in power.”
What has happened in Israel in recent weeks,
Blair continued, illustrates the difference between a democracy and a
United States Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who gave his first
public address in Israel since his arrival two months ago, emphasized America’s
ongoing commitment to Israel’s security and said that US President Barack Obama
had expanded that commitment to an unprecedented level.
aid to Israel, excluding expenditure on the Iron Dome battery, this year
amounted to $3 billion and will increase by $1.1 billion in the coming year, he
said. He noted that Obama had pushed this through despite America’s economic
Shapiro cautioned of the need to be on guard against those
with extremist agendas who are opposed to peace. He emphasized the importance of
supporting those who share the promise of democracy throughout the region.
Despite the turmoil, Shapiro suggested that this is a time to promote new ways
for regional cooperation and to form foundation for relations between people and
not just government.
He was optimistic about prospects of peace, he
While some people believed that Arabs and Israelis will never get
along and that Arabs will never accept a Jewish state, Shapiro says the US
refuses to be tied down by the kind of apolitical thinking.