Blair says he is not giving up on Mideast peace

Quartet's Mideast envoy: Economic solutions are not substitutes for political ones; US ambassador: Obama is committed to Israel.

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September 5, 2011 20:00
2 minute read.
Quartet Envoy Tony Blair

Tony Blair at IDC. (photo credit: Itzik Edri)

 
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“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.

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.

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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 agreement.

“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 table.



“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 dictatorship.

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.

American security 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 constraints.

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 said.

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.

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