Blair: Israeli, Palestinian people can propel peace

Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet engaged in peace making in the Middle East believes that at the grassroots level, Israelis and Palestinians can learn to get along with each other and to co-exist. Blair, who was the keynote speaker on Wednesday in Beit Yehoshua at the Sheatufim Conference on Philanthropy and Civil Society in Israel, and voiced his optimistic opinion in response to a question from Ariel's mayor, Ron Nachman, who wanted to know what the third sector can do to move peace forward by helping him and his Palestinian counterparts, "not from Washington or London, but as neighbors living together." "Without the right framework for political negotiations, it's always going to be difficult," he said, but noted that how people relate to each other at the grassroots level is very important. Very recently, he said, he had crossed from Jenin into Israel, and the deputy mayor of Jenin, who speaks Hebrew, came with him. Blair had a meeting with an Israeli mayor whose English is poor, so the deputy mayor from Jenin became the translator for both of them. "There's a real chance when the people themselves learn to live with each [other] and to understand that the space they're occupying is a very small space," said Blair. Citing Northern Ireland as an example, Blair said that people at the grassroots level refused to accept that they couldn't live together and were determined that they could. Women came together in Northern Ireland and started treating everyone who had suffered trauma and loss, but they could not have done what they did, Blair emphasized, without the space created by political negotiations. "If you give people the prospect of co-existence, that's what most people want to do," he said. "I'm absolutely convinced that most people want to live together and that only the extreme minority makes people hate each other and refuse to live with each other. Those people working towards co-existence will have a more profound impact than any political leader."