Mika Brzezinski: Here with us now from New York, former British Prime Minister, official envoy of the Middle East Quartet and founder of the Africa Governance Initiative, Tony Blair. And congratulations on being one of honourees at last night’s 2nd Annual Save the Children Illumination Gala.
Tony Blair: Thank you.
Mika Brzezinski: It’s good to have you on board this morning
Tony Blair: Thank you Mika. Hi Joe.
Joe Scarborough: It really is. We obviously, like most of the civilised world, are very discouraged by events in Israel. The cycle of violence just continues. What is the short term and long term ramification of the synagogue attack?
Tony Blair: Short term is going to be very very difficult indeed. It was an horrific attack, absolutely despicable and wicked attack when people were peacefully worshipping. And then there’s obviously then action taken by the Israeli Government, so tensions are really really high at the moment. I think the first thing we have to do is to try to calm the situation, to make sure there aren’t provocative actions, or statements. And then we need to get back to a political track that’s credible and changes on the ground that give people some hope. But right now it’s a very very tough situation indeed.
Joe Scarborough: The Palestinian Authority obviously condemned the attack, but we had the Israeli ambassador to the United States saying that he went on to then condemn Israeli aggression. Do we need to put more pressure on the Palestinian Authority and maybe find a way forward, but with them and separating them from Hamas.
Tony Blair: Well, they’re also under enormous pressure from their population. I mean, things have been very difficult in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and of course, in Gaza as well. I think right now the most important thing is to just try and create some calm and stability, but we will require to get back, at some point, to a proper political initiative, a framework that allows people to start discussing the basic issues of the conflict. And then you’ve got to have some changes on the ground. I mean, there are still many many homeless people in Gaza. There’s still huge problem on the West Bank. And where there’s a vacuum, then into the vacuum come these acts of violence, some of which are just literally random acts of violence. And which make it very very difficult, by the way, for the authorities to control or contain the situation.
Look, we’ve been through this cycle many times before, but the only thing that works is to calm it and then get back on the front foot.
Mika Brzezinski: Carol Lee, Wall Street Journal, has a question.
Carol Lee: Yeah, thank you. I’m curious to what role you think the White House has in all of this, right now, at this particular moment. And whether the Iran talks deadline on Monday, if at all, has any bearing on being able to maintain, down the violence, and maintain calm there.
Tony Blair: I think even though Iran is obviously a crucial issue to Israel and the whole of the region, I think that people are aware that in the immediate term at least, that’s a separate question. It’s being handled through the negotiation process and we have to wait and see whether they’re able to reach an agreement or not. And I think that the thing that is more important right now, and I know the White House and John Kerry have been very active on this, is to try and draw the tension out of the situation, so that you can at least create a reasonable enough atmosphere of calm. You then start talking about how you might put a political framework back together. Right now, you know, the credibility of the political process is very low, and frankly, until it calms, there’s not a lot anyone can do.
Al Hunt: Mr. Prime Minister, there’s a growing feeling among Israeli politicians, captured in a New Yorker piece recently that the two-state solution is dead. It’s not going to work. What are the implications of that?
Tony Blair: The implications of that, in my view, are very bad indeed. If you move away from a two-state solution, basically two-states for two peoples, a Jewish state for the Jewish people in Israel, and the Palestinian state for Palestinians. The fact is if you go away from that – and just try thinking for a moment abut a one-state solution, you’ve just seen on the map there, if you paint a bigger picture of the map, you know, you see how small the territory is of Israel and the Palestinian territories in the whole of the Middle East. This is a small strip of land. You try putting people in a situation of conflict and force them together in one bi-national state, I really think you’d have an immense problem on your hands. The two-state solution is still possible. It’s not that it can’t be done. But it requires a situation on the ground, which starts to help people to prepare for peace and a two-state solution. At the moment, it’s all the other way. You’ve had Gaza, you’ve had the tension in Jerusalem, the stalling of the economy on the West Bank. So we’ve got our work cut out.
Mika Brzezinski: Alright, Tony Blair, thank you very much. And congratulations once again on being recognised by Save the Children for your work combatting poverty, and everything that you do. Thank you.