Tony Blair Defends Obama On Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair came to President Barack Obama's defense on Sunday after a scathing New York Times editorial accused the White House of losing legitimacy and strategic standing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," Blair urged, above all, patience in resolving a problem that has confounded so many previous administrations. noting, also, how long it took to resolve the discord in Northern Ireland. More subtly, he contrasted Obama's commitment to the issue to that of his predecessor, George W. Bush, arguing the importance of setting a "strategic objective" for the region at the onset of the administration.

Asked if he agreed with the NYT editorial, which claimed that "Obama's own credibility [on Israel-Palestine] is so diminished... that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever," Blair replied:

I don't, actually. I mean, it won't surprise you to know. I think that, first of all, let me tell you that I have worked with Senator George Mitchell on the Northern Ireland peace negotiations. We work together very closely. He is, in my view, one of the most skilled and strategic negotiators I've ever come across. Secondly, I think President Obama, Secretary Clinton are completely committed to doing this. But third and perhaps most important of all, I went through situations in times in the Northern Ireland process where people were convinced the thing was going to fail. Where even at times, I found it difficult to see a way through. But you know, the thing is, there is a way through here. Because in fact both parties want to achieve a two-state solution.

Actually, the Palestinians have made significant progress on security. in fact, the Israelis are prepared, in my view, to change significantly their posture on the West Bank. And if we can get [captured Israeli soldier] Corporal Shalit released, than a major change in the way that we view Gaza. It's not without hope. And here's the thing... There is no alternative but to keep trying. The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution and that will, I assure you, be a hell of a fight. So I think when we look at the various strands of negativity there are around at the moment and there always are in these negotiations, there are, nonetheless, positives. We've got to seize on them, work on them, and make sure that we bring about a situation in which the central strategic objective of President Obama, which is right at the outset of his administration, to make this process count and work is achieved.

And I do emphasize that as well. The president set this at the beginning. This is, to my mind, the big difference from what has come before. At the very beginning of this administration, he set that as a core strategic objective. I have absolutely no doubt he holds to that and whatever the difficulties and the obstacles; we have to find a way through. And personally, although as I say I am optimist by nature, I believe we will.


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