Blair: Israel's relationship with the Gulf Arab states is 'single biggest game-changer'

In an interview with the United Synagogue's Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, former PM also cast doubt over chances of a Palestinian state


Tony Blair has described Israel's relationship with the Gulf states as the ''single biggest game changer for the Middle East'' - while also accepting that the ''Palestinian question is very difficult right now.''  

The former Labour leader said the current state of affairs was ''almost an inversion'' of the situation he faced when, as Prime Minster, he worked alongside his friend Lord Levy to try to secure a peaceful settlement to the Middle East conflict.

Speaking to Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, the Senior Rabbi of Mill Hill, in an online interview organised in partnership with the United Synagogue, Mr Blair said: ''The biggest reason for hope in the Middle East as a whole is the emerging relationship between Israel and the Arab States."

With offices both in Israel and in the Gulf, Mr Blair said he had spent the last few years working on forging this relationship, which he said was not purely a ''security relationship.''

He added: "Yes it's true they both have security interests in common.  They are both worried about Iran."

"The other thing is that there is a new and emerging leadership in the Middle East that really wants to modernise their countries to make sure that religion isn't abused and turned into a political ideology.

"That is the single biggest game-changer for the Middle East."    

Mr Blair also recalled his work in region with Lord Levy.

"What you have got, in a curious way, is an inversion of what we were dealing with,'' he said. 

''The Israeli relationship in the region was very problematic and the Israel/Palestine had continual peace processes and chance of bring some kind of agreement.

But he said that today ''the Palestine track is pretty blocked right now but the Israeli regional issue is actually more promising".

Mr Blair stopped short of openly criticising the Israeli government over the proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank although he admitted ''it was very difficult to see how a Palestinian state survives that".

He then added: ''On the other hand there are no proper negotiations at the moment. The Palestinian Authority in the last few days has announced withdrawal of cooperation with Israel."

During the conversation on Monday evening, Mr Blair also discussed the impact of Covid-19 on wider society and on Anglo-Jewry. He said: ''This was the most difficult challenge I have ever seen."

While he said he had ''every sympathy'' with the UK government having to deal with the pandemic, Mr Blair said ''in reality we were somewhat too slow to lockdown''.

In the absence of a vaccine, he said the single most important thing was ''to have mass testing''.

The former PM said the financial implications of the virus were ''immense'' and predicted ''a whole set of industries will be in trouble for a long time and some just won't be viable.''

He said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak could not carry on giving financial support ''for ever''.

But he added: ''I think the reality is every developed country around the world is taking extraordinary measures to deal with this.''

Mr Blair also expressed sympathy with those in the Jewish community who had seen loved ones and friends die as a result of coronavirus.


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive