Blair calls for immediate direct negotiations


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Tony Blair called for "face-to-face," direct negotiations between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority as soon as possible.

But the former British prime minister, now the Quartet representative to the Middle East, emphasized in a speech to the AIPAC policy conference that "faith in peace" on both sides must be restored and must be done "patiently, and over time, on the ground."

"It can’t only be negotiated top down," said Blair, who was well received by the crowd. "It has also to be built bottom up" via a "reality created and sustained," he said, adding that "details matter" and are the difference between "paralysis and possibility."

Blair praised Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s efforts to build Palestinian civil institutions in the West Bank, and said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak "deserve credit for the steps they have taken in response," such as opening many main checkpoints.

The former British leader also spoke out strongly against Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, saying that "they must know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them from getting it."

"The danger is if they suspect for a moment we might allow such a thing," he said.

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