Blair: we have a duty to listen to Israel’s side

Tony Blair: Israel is willing and ready to negotiate

Tony Blair: Israel is willing and ready to negotiate

Tony Blair has declared himself “a passionate believer in Israel” and has said that there is a “collective duty… to argue vigorously against the de-legitimisation of Israel.”

The Quartet representative and former UK prime minister and made the comments at a symposium at IDC University in Herzliya.

Mr Blair called on European leaders not to “apply rules to the government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country.

“In any of our nations, if there were people firing rockets, committing acts of terrorism and living next door to us, our public opinion would go crazy.”

In any of our nations, if there were people committing acts of terrorism and living next door, public opinion would go crazy

Tony Blair

He added: “I remember the bomb attacks from Republican terrorism in the 1970’s. There weren’t many arguing for a policy of phlegmatic calm.”

Mr Blair drew a distinction between traditional de-legitimisation of Israel, as espoused by figures like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the “more insidious” form which “those engaging in…will fiercely deny they are doing so.”

Mr Blair said that while people are entitled to disagree with Israel’s government, such de-legitimatisation involves “an unwillingness to listen to the other side, to acknowledge that Israel has a point.”

Discussing a range of topics, including Israel’s decision to relax the blockade of Gaza, Mr Blair welcomed the direct peace talks scheduled for September 2.

He said he believed that “if Israel can receive real and effective guarantees about its security, then it is willing and ready to include a negotiation for a viable, independent Palestinian state.

“This is a brave decision by the prime minister and the right one.”

Watch Tony Blair address the conference here

Last updated: 11:28am, August 25 2010