BLOGGERKatherine Marshall is a Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, where she leads the Center's program on Religion and Global Development. After a long career in...
Faith in Action tracks the activities of people of faith across the globe and across religious traditions, with a focus on development issues. Posts are originally published by the Huffington Post. Older blog posts appeared on the Washington Post's Georgetown/On Faith site.
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Blair Aces His Israel-Palestine Presentation
December 4, 2008
This is grading season in universities so I was interested to hear a respected colleague suggest that Tony Blair's speech to a packed Council on Foreign Relations meeting merited an A. That's impressive considering the topic was the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Blair was speaking from a carefully prepared text as Special Envoy for the Quartet (U.S., UN, European Union and Russia) to the Middle East. He opened by acknowledging the endless cycle of hope and despair in the Middle East. He said he disagreed with former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who once said there was no problem in the Middle East because a problem has a solution. Blair asserted with passion, his eyes flashing, that there are solutions, they are at hand, and it is essential for our welfare at every level that we make them happen.
Blair's message echoed what thoughtful observers hear and repeat constantly. Ask people in Tel Aviv or Ramallah what they want and what it might look like and they say almost the same things: peace, a two-state solution, and some painful compromises. So why doesn't it happen?
Because both sides have lost faith in the will of the other to do what is needed. Israelis have no confidence that a Palestinian state could assure Israel's security. Palestinians have no confidence in Israel's willingness to compromise. In short, there is a deep lack of trust and respect.
What now? A real solution will have to come from determined, creative, ground-level leadership to rebuild trust and restore hope. For Israel, security simply has to be assured. For Palestinians they must be able to envisage a decent future with economic and social progress and real hope and the daily humiliations of life today have to end.
Blair offered a four-point plan.
1. Make the negotiation process work.
2. Press forward on Palestinian security forces.
3. Keep the pressure and labor on economic and social progress.
4. Come up with a new and better strategy for Gaza.
He said he sees glimmers of hope on all four fronts. He said he does not believe that the Israel-Palestine conflict is the root of tensions across the Muslim world or the key to ending the terrorist threats. But he also said that solving that conflict will help immeasurably and send contemporary terrorism "to the oblivion it deserves". It also could elease the forces that stand for moderation and modernization.
Blair's analysis deserves an A.