Tony Blair issued fresh justification for the war in Iraq during a revealing interview with America’s top rabbi.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair

Speaking to Rabbi David Wolpe  – named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine – the former prime minister, said: “We can apologise for the mistakes, but in the end we got rid of Saddam Hussein… Once you get rid of the tyrants, you get competition between Islamists and more moderate groups.”

In a wide-ranging discussion at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, he also told Wolpe that he retains hope for a permanent peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians:

“In the Middle East there’s a fight against extremism. Israel is right in the middle of the struggle…”

“There is the possibility for the first time since Israel was created to form alliances within the region…”

“In the Middle East, whatever we do, it’s going to be difficult. Is it ultimately resolvable? My answer is yes. It is possible to make progress. The root of the problem is the Israel-Arab relationship not simply the Israel-Palestine relationship. There is the possibility of a new relationship between Israel and its neighbours. I don’t think it’s hopeless.”

And on the plight of Syrian refugees, he added: “There is no answer. If you don’t bring people in, you’re inhumane, if you do, you create a magnet.” 

He also addressed the threat posed by anti-Semitism, saying: “The response has to be clear, you’ve got to be really firm about it from the very beginning… It’s important that people understand what the Jewish community is all about. There’s still a huge amount of ignorance out there. You have to explain your values. It’s important that people know what it’s all about.”