Tony Blair: The Middle East Needs an Alliance of Values
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Posted on: 16th September 2017
Speaking at the “From Balfour to Brexit” conference at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem, he said the new generation of leaders in the region understand two things “the first is there is no solution to the economic problems of their countries until they get proper, rule-based economies. The second is that the politicisation of Islam is a mistake and you need to relieve yourself of that mistake in order to make progress.” He added that as these countries look to become more open and join the world, they cannot if people are “intolerant of someone because they have a different faith or a different colour.”
The event marked the inauguration of the Sir Naim Dangoor Centre for UK-Israel Relations and Mr. Blair spoke on a panel with former Israeli ambassador Daniel Shek and the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland. He set out the opportunity for a regional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that the strategic objective Arab states have is to “create a situation in which the region is at peace, where Israel is recognised and they are openly and clearly in alliance with Israel, but for them, as set out in the Arab Peace Initiative, that has to be done in conjunction with a resolution of the Palestinian question.”
The first is there is no solution to the economic problems of their countries until they get proper, rule-based economies.
Mr. Blair said he was optimistic about this as you could see these changes happening around the region. He said that what will create the circumstances is “a natural alliance not just of interests but of basic values,” adding that “this is not just about the fact that the Gulf States and Israel have a common worry about Iran, a common worry about Sunni forms of extremism, it is also about what cooperation could do in technology, in culture, about the prospects of economic development – think how powerful it would be if the Middle East region went as one to America, to Europe and said – this is the agenda we need.”
He said that this is obviously going to take time and that a peace deal with the Palestinians is tough for any Israeli government unless there is clear, regional under-pinning. He said this is was crucial and that in past the problem “is not one that arises because you haven’t had smart enough negotiators, it’s the context that’s the problem. You change the context and you can have the negotiation.”