Blair Warns of "Another Eruption in Violence" After Gaza Visit

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Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair (R) visits a UN-run school sheltering Palestinians, whose houses were destroyed by what they said was Israeli shelling during the 50-day war last summer, in Gaza City on February 15, 2015. AFP/Suhaib Salem

Published Monday, February 16, 2015

Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Sunday warned during a visit to the Gaza Strip of "another eruption in violence" in the Palestinian enclave devastated from last summer's Israeli aggression.

"I'm extremely concerned that if we leave Gaza in this state, we’ll witness another eruption in violence … we've got to stop that," the former British prime minister said.

Blair was making his first trip to Gaza since the July-August Israeli assault.

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea, killing 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, and injuring 10,626.

The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal.

The assault left the densely populated enclave in ruins, displacing more than a quarter of Gaza's population of 1.7 million and leaving 100,000 people, mostly children, homeless.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, over 96,000 Palestinian family homes were damaged or destroyed during the aggression, including 7,000 homes that were completely lost. UNRWA has estimated that at least $720 million is needed to address the housing crisis caused by the conflict.

Besides homes, the Israeli strikes targeted 13 public hospitals; 17 private hospitals, including al-Wafa hospital which was completely destroyed; 23 governmental health centers, four of which were completely destroyed; and four private health centers, including the Khalil al-Wazir clinic which was completely destroyed.

The United Nations has been trying to speed up the delivery of material to rebuild damaged homes, with officials saying the pace has picked up after a slow start.

Britain's former premier also called for a rethink on how peace could be reached, two decades after the historic 1993 Oslo Accord was supposed to pave the way for a final agreement.

"So 20 years after Oslo we need a new approach to Gaza and a new approach to peace," Blair said.

"The problem in my view, having spent almost eight years in this role, is not, as often thought, locking negotiators in a room long enough to make an agreement," he said.

"You can lock negotiators in a room for eternity and they can't make an agreement."

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.

As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

In 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Arafat declared the existence of a State of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the State's belief "in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations."

Heralded as a "historic compromise," the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent, believed to have become 17 percent after massive Israeli settlement building, of historic Palestine in exchange for peace with Israel.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

Blair said that "the place to start with peace is actually Gaza, because if we're able to change the situation in Gaza, politically and economically, then we're able to do a lot of changes in the whole of the politics of this conflict.”

It is worth noting that numerous Palestinian factions, especially in the Gaza Strip, as well as pro-Palestine advocates support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable and that it would mean recognizing a state of Israel on territories seized forcefully by Zionists before 1967.

They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won't solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.

Blair called on Israel to open its crossings into the territory, and on Gaza to "open up and reconnect with the world,” stressing that Palestinian reconciliation could only happen if it is "based on peace.”

Although the leading Palestinian political parties signed a unity government in April that ended seven years of political division, the government has yet to take full control in the besieged Gaza Strip, which is dominated by Hamas.

Critics say Israel has repeatedly sought to undermine the deal including through a massive arrest campaign targeting Hamas members across the occupied West Bank over the summer as well as the seven-week aggression on Gaza.

The Quartet has demanded that Hamas renounce violence against Israel and recognize past agreements signed with the Zionist state.

Formed in Madrid in 2002, the Quartet is composed of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

(Ma'an, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

How about the Quartet get Israel to renounce violence against Palestinians?
They have always been the aggressors and yet the Western Governments expect the victims, Palestinians, to renounce violence. The odd rocket and stones thrown is nothing compared to what he Zionists do on an hourly basis to Palestinians.
Start from there and maybe Peace will happen but I for one don't believe that is what Israel wants...they want to gain as much land as possible for themselves, that is what Zionism is all about.

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