Tony Blair has told an online Jewish UK audience that it will be “very difficult to see how a Palestinian state survives” the annexation of land being proposed by the Israeli government.
The former prime minister and Middle East envoy added that while peace negotiations were stalled, the emerging relationship between Israel and the Arab states was “the biggest reason for hope” when it comes to peace in the region.
Speaking in conversation with Mill Hill United Synagogue’s Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet on Monday, Blair said people were “increasingly sceptical” when he said there were still hopes for peace, but that annexation would make it “extremely difficult”.
On increasing Israeli-Arab relations, he said it was “the biggest reason for hope in the Middle East as a whole,” adding that this was “really what I’ve spent a lot of my time on the last few years… We work a lot on this”.
He said: “It isn’t just about the security relationship. Yes they’ve got some security issues in common – they’re both worried about Iran – but there is a new and emerging leadership in the Middle East that wants to modernise their countries, to make sure that religion is not abused and turned into a political ideology.
“That is all positive, and I think in the end that is the single biggest game-changer for the Middle East,” he said, before turning to the slipping chances of a two-state solution and plans put forward by Benjamin Netanyahu to claim sovereignty over areas seized in war in 1967.
“The Israel-Palestine question is very difficult now because there are proposals for the annexation of the Jordan Valley with the Israeli government. It’s going to be very difficult to see how a Palestinian state survives that.
“On the other hand there are no proper negotiations at the moment. The Palestinian Authority just in the last few days has withdrawn all cooperation with Israel.”
Blair, who is Executive Chairman of the Tony Blair Institute For Global Change, said: “In a curious way, what you’ve got is almost an inversion of what we were dealing with. Wind back 20 years, Israel’s relations in the region were highly problematic and the Israeli-Palestinian issue had continual peace processes and chances of bringing some kind of agreement.
“Now it’s the other way round. The Israeli-Palestinian track is pretty blocked right now, but the Israel-regional situation is actually more promising. I would obviously like to see the two of them aligned, and that’s what we’re working for.”