Tony Blair. Still optimistic
Photo: Hagai Aharon
The Quartet Special Envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair said Tuesday on CNN that Israel and the Palestinians will be in serious trouble if they don't begin talks in the near future.
The former British prime minister added that behind the scenes a lot of work was being done to restart direct negotiations, which were halted in September after settlement construction in the West Bank was renewed following a nine-month moratorium. Blair acknowledged that the level of confidence between the two sides was low but said the talks can nonetheless be put back on track.
Effective? Obama with Abbas (R) and Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)
He also referred to Palestinian efforts to garner support for an independent state in preparation for their attempt to win UN support, and for a draft proposal submitted to the UN Security Council condemning ongoing Israeli settlement. Blair said such efforts could increase pressure on Israel, but noted such unilateral steps are never as effective as steps taken in mutual agreement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said during the weekend that an alternative must be found to the current peace process, which had become a tool for managing the conflict. He criticized the US for failing to take steps against Israeli settlement construction.
Blair defended the US, claiming that although the US failed to renew direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, it was still an effective mediator.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abbas on Tuesday. "With effort and mutual will, we can reach real peace between our nations," he said. The call followed the death of Abbas' brother.
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