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Israel-Palestine war: Blair open to becoming Israel’s ‘humanitarian coordinator’ in Gaza

Suggestion put forward by Netanyahu as international disquiet on the humanitarian situation in Gaza grows
Tony Blair speaks at an event in New York City in September (AFP)
Tony Blair speaks at an event in New York City in September (AFP)

Former British prime minister Tony Blair is open to a role as Israel’s “humanitarian coordinator” in Gaza, a suggestion first put forward by Benjamin Netanyahu.

A spokesperson for Blair said he was “discussing the situation” but no offer had yet been accepted, according to media outlets.

According to Israeli news site Ynet, Netanyahu wants to address international concerns about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the besieged Palestinian territory, as Israel presses on with its bombing campaign.

More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since 7 October, the vast majority children and women.

Coupled with the current Israeli military focus on hospitals, most prominently Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital, Israel’s western allies are struggling to justify their unconditional support for Israel with their voters, who are increasingly calling for a ceasefire.

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Israeli sources told Ynet that while the proposed role had not been defined, it could entail ensuring the provision of medicines, medical treatment and the evacuation of the wounded from the area.

Blair has longstanding ties in Israel, a relic of his role serving as a special envoy for the Middle East Quartet, a block made up of the UN, US, Russia and the EU, which was aimed at mediating talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

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The former Labour leader also has working ties to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas.

While backing the Israeli siege on Gaza that it imposed after Hamas took control of the area following its victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections, Blair later said western states were wrong for boycotting the group.

The Palestinian movement had been shut out of talks mediated by the Quartet, but in 2017 Blair said the international community should have pulled “Hamas into a dialogue”.

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In 2021, Middle East Eye reported that Blair invited senior Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to the UK in 2015 with the knowledge of the then prime minister David Cameron for talks on how to end the siege in Gaza.

While those talks did not go ahead, Blair did meet with Hamas officials in Doha.

Blair was a controversial appointment as peace envoy in 2007, immediately after resigning his position as prime minister.

In Britain, his legacy among critics largely revolves around his decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Blair nevertheless remains well connected on the international stage, with high-level contacts across governments in the region.

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