On a recent visit to Gaza, Tony Blair asked Hamas whether it identifies with Islamic terrorism or truly seeks a path to peace with Israel.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Quartet’s Middle East envoy for the past eight years, visited the Gaza Strip on Sunday to review the outcome of Operation Protective Edge and to evaluate prospects for rehabilitation.
Blair, who represents a body that the United Nations, the US, the European Union and Russia set up to find a peaceful solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, called on Israel and Hamas to reassess their positions and change their attitudes in an attempt to bring peace to the region.
Blair called on Hamas to clarify whether it identifies with a “broader Islamist movement with regional designs” or would be willing to accept a long-term peace alongside Israel.
Blair also warned of “another eruption” in Gaza if the situation does not change.
“I’m extremely concerned that if you leave Gaza in the state it’s currently in, you’ll have another eruption, and violence, and then we’re back in a further catastrophe, so we’ve got to stop that,” AFP quoted him as saying.
Gaza’s rehabilitation has been progressing at a slow pace, as many countries who pledged to finance its rehabilitation have not followed through with their promises. Blair said the stagnation in reconstruction was a “crime,” and took aim at the international community for not taking a more active role in the process. According to Blair, Gaza’s current state is a result of “those of us in the international community who over the years have made promises” that were not fulfilled, and “those who offered leadership and failed to provide.”
“If we allow Gaza to remain as it is, we are making a fundamental mistake,” Blair said.
Rethinking the Peace Process
He called on Israel and Hamas to rethink the peace process. “So 20 years after Oslo we need a new approach to Gaza and a new approach to peace,” he said in relation to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, which spans over two decades.
“The problem in my view, having spent almost eight years in this role, is not as often thought, locking negotiators in a room long enough to make an agreement,” added Blair according to AFP. “You can lock negotiators in a room for eternity and they can’t make an agreement.”
Blair also said that “the place to start with peace is actually Gaza, because if we’re able to change the situation in Gaza, politically and economically, then we’re able to do a lot of changes in the whole of the politics of this conflict”.
He called on Israel to open its crossings into the territory, and on Gaza to “open up and reconnect with the world.”
He further stressed that Palestinian reconciliation and unity could only happen if it is “based on peace.” The PA’s Fatah faction and Hamas signed a unity pact in April, but have since failed to maintain a jointly run government, and have instead involved themselves in mutual accusations of corruption and graft.
The Quartet has demanded that Hamas renounce violence against Israel and recognize past agreements signed with the Jewish state, whose existence it does not accept.
By: United with Israel Staff
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