WASHINGTON – Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair portrayed Sunday a harsh picture of the region without a Palestinian state. "The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution and that will, I assure you, be a hell of fight," he said in an interview to the CNN network.
According to Blair, the next month "will be completely critical and fundamental" in the efforts to resume direct negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinians.
The former British prime minister noted that it was essential for the sides to sit down and talk "as quickly as possible".
"I've just spent some time with the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu,"
Blair said, "and I think he is genuine and serious in wanting the negotiation to start."
He said he believed that "the majority of people, both Israelis and Palestinians, want to see a two-state solution." According to Blair, the Israelis want to know that their security is going to be protected, while the Palestinians want to know that the negotiations will really end the occupation and lead to a Palestinian state.
He added that he thinks "the Palestinians have made significant progress on security and the Israelis are prepared to change significantly their posture on the West Bank."
Blair, who served as British premier during the peace talks with Northern Ireland, which were led by US Senator George Mitchell, defended American President Barack Obama and his special Mideast envoy Mitchell, following a New York Times article accusing them of having no strategy.
"I have worked with Senator George Mitchell together very closely. He is, in my view, one of the most skilled and strategic negotiators I've ever come across… I think President Obama and Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton are completely committed to doing this… I went through situations in times in the Northern Ireland process where people were convinced that the thing was going to fail, where even at times I found it difficult to see a way through. But the thing is there is a way through here, because in fact both parties want to achieve a two-state solution."
Blair said he believes the biggest difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration stems from the fact that Obama has made the Israeli-Palestinian peace process "a central strategic objective" at the very beginning of his administration.
"I have absolutely no doubt that he holds to that, and whatever the difficulties and the obstacles, we have to find a way through. And personally, I'm an optimist by nature and I believe we will," he concluded.