Blair blasts isolation of Gaza, says doesn’t weaken Hamas

Improving the lives of people improves the prospects of peace, argues Quartet envoy.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
December 17, 2010 01:52
2 minute read.
Gazan removes rubble from chicken farm

Gazan clears rubble 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

 
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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.

“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.”

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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 solution.

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.

He 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 civilians.



“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 resembles peace.”

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