Tony Blair and Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
The key to resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is overcoming religious issues, Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair told President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday.
“Cultural acceptance across the boundaries of faith” is needed to solve the political problems in the region, the former British prime minister told Rivlin in their first meeting since the latter became president.
In welcoming Blair to the President’s Residence, Rivlin told him “you are a good friend despite some differences of opinion from time to time.”
It was the president who raised the faith issue, saying that although Israel has no war against Islam, there are extremists on both sides who think that there is a war between Jews and Muslims.
“This is the homeland of the Jewish people and everyone born here,” Rivlin said, indicating the inclusiveness of all Israeli minority groups.
“We are destined to live together and you are doing so much to bring us to a reasonable way of thinking of how to find a way to live together in peace and with open borders,” he told Blair in reference to finding a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
Rivlin said that he wanted to emphasize his appreciation of Blair’s efforts for the people of Gaza, who he said “are being held hostage by Hamas.”
The reconstruction of Gaza is in the interests of Israel and the whole world, said Rivlin, adding that Gaza could become a Riviera and one of the most successful places in the region.
Blair responded that Rivlin’s words on coexistence have resonance not only in Israel but throughout the world, and that the issues that occupy Israel’s interests occupy his own, primarily improving the living standards of the Palestinians and the security of Israel.