Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Israel and the Palestinians can reach a peace agreement “within the year.”
But Blair, special envoy for the Middle East Quartet, told David Frost that accord can be reached only if all participants agree to peaceful negotiations.
The quartet consists of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
President Barack Obama gave a speech earlier this month in Cairo that amounted to laying the ground work for a Mideast peace process.
In that address, Obama said that while the United States has an “unbreakable” bond with Israel, it must stop building settlements in the West Bank.
And while the Palestinians must renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist, Obama said, its occupation of Palestinian territory has produced “daily humiliations, large and small.”
The president also emphasized in his speech that the United States harbors no ill will toward Muslims.
Blair says that the speech produced a "great sense of hope and expectation."
He told Frost, "If President Obama gets the right partner, on the Israeli side but also on the Palestinian side, his determination to do this I have no doubt about at all."
The key issue: "If everyone would commit themselves to a peaceful political negotiation to a two-state solution, you could have this deal within the year. But people have got to be prepared to commit to it."
Of course that has been the rub for more than 30 years. Israel and its neighbors seem no closer to peace now than they were following their 1967 war.
Blair himself points out: "The important thing is to understand that President Obama doesn't need cheerleaders, he needs partners. He needs people who are going to help him achieve what he wants."
Whether any such people are now in power in Israel, the Palestinian territory or any of the Arab nations remains to be seen.
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