Charlie Rose Talks to Tony Blair

As Middle East envoy for the quartet made up of the U.S., EU, Russia, and the UN, Tony Blair is pushing to revive peace talks as the Palestinians push for statehood

Can you concoct a formula that’s attractive to the Palestinians, to say we’ll negotiate hard for this and it’ll have to happen quickly—and if it fails, then we’ll support statehood?
A lot of countries feel tremendous sympathy for the Palestinians. But they would like to see a revived negotiation given the chance. I think that if revived negotiation were given the chance and then it all just broke apart, people would be looking for other ways to solve this. I know people say, “Well, we started the negotiation before.” [But] if you got a serious negotiation going again, then my view is that all countries, actually, even those who are traditionally very close to Israel, would be saying, “Right, we really want this to work.”
 
Is there anything you can say to the Palestinians to dissuade them from demanding statehood now?
Put it the other way around. I think the Palestinians are perfectly entitled to come and say, “We want to be recognized as a state.” And that process doesn’t happen overnight, by the way. So that will take some time. I think what is difficult is that people say, “We demand recognition as a state, but we’re not prepared to have this negotiation on terms that are fair.” Now, obviously those terms have got to be fair. But I said all the way through that it’s inevitable the Palestinians will come to the UN this week. The question is, can we combine whatever happens at the UN with a relaunched negotiation? If we can, then I think we’re in the business of advancing this thing. If we can’t, then, you know, from the Israeli perspective—and they’ve also got their view on this—they will say, “Well, you’ve chosen to go through the UN rather than through a negotiation.”
 
Explain how you combine their presence at the UN with renewed negotiations. What’s the recipe?
It could work in a number of different ways. What is important is to launch a negotiation so that we have a situation where the Palestinians and the Israelis are trying to resolve these issues. And the only way you will resolve them is on the ground. I’ve just come back from my 71st visit there. You know, I’m there the whole time. It’s on the ground you need change. If you don’t get the change on the ground, then you can pass, frankly, any number of resolutions, but you won’t get peace.
 
Are the Israelis saying, “We will not negotiate if the Palestinians go ahead with the statehood request?”
I think what the Israelis are saying is this can only be resolved by negotiation. It’s not for me to say what they might do. And I think it depends, in a way, not just on what happens at the UN but the atmosphere around how it happens. The truth is, in the last few years, what Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has done under President Abbas’s leadership has been to create institutions of statehood that are strong and now recognized, for example, by the IMF and the World Bank and others, as those of a fully functioning state. Now, we’ve still got of course the split between Gaza and the West Bank, and this is a problem. Because of the improved security that the Palestinians have put in on the West Bank in a place like Janin in the northern part of the Palestinian territory, we got the Israelis to open up the border. The result of that has been literally millions of dollars flowing into the economy of Janin. So over the past two or three years, the Palestinian economy on the West Bank has been growing in double figures.
 
Do you hold up the example of stability in Ramallah to the Israelis—and the idea that it can spread?
A few years back, you could say, well, it’s not quite clear what works. Now it’s absolutely clear. What’s clear is the Palestinians are taking their obligations of rule of law and law and order seriously, which Fayyad has done. It then requires—frankly from Palestinians … as a whole, because this is the only way you’ll ever get a deal—to say Gaza and the West Bank is one state under one authority and one rule of law. That’s something the Palestinians are going to have to sort out for themselves.
 
And how does the Arab Spring affect all of this?
Most people are saying that because of all the uncertainty in this region and this sort of revolution that’s going on, this is the worst time to make peace. My counter to that is, actually, it’s the best time to make peace. It’s the one thing that will allow Israel and Palestine to be part of the mood of change in the region and not be seen as something that has to be changed.

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