Israel is right to be worried about the character of a future Palestinian state, Tony Blair said.
Blair, a former British prime minister who now serves as envoy for the Quartet of international peace mediators, gave an interview over the weekend in which he voiced cautious optimism about the prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian accord.
“The fact that somebody did not succeed in the past doesn’t mean that he won’t succeed in the future, too,” Blair told Yediot Achronot.
“I could bring an example from what happened in Northern Ireland, with all the differences between the two disputes and all the similarities. I could tell you about the 40-50 years of failures until we reached an agreement.”
Though Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas go into next month’s Annapolis peace conference without overwhelming domestic support, Blair said they could make progress if each side’s main concerns are addressed.
“It depends on whether people on both sides realize that it is in their long-term interest to reach an agreement. The Israeli side has to realize that this will safeguard their security, and the Palestinian side must realize that this will lead to a state,” he said.
But Blair said the primary issue is to ensure a future Palestine is properly built and governed, especially given the threat of Hamas expanding its influence after the Islamist group took over the Gaza Strip.
“That is what I am talking about when I talk to Palestinians about the need to build institutions,” he said. “The character of the state is no less important than its borders.”