Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: Office of the Quartet Representative (OQR)
18 September 2011

Quartet Representative Tony Blair addresses the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee at the United Nations


Thank you very much. I just want to summarise where I think we are right now. I think there is good news and bad news. The good news is that we in the last four years, since the Paris donors’ conference in 2007, the good news is I think it’s very clear what works in this situation. The bad news, or the challenge if you like, is that we’re not doing enough of what works. But actually what works is very, very clear. I’ll just make four brief points.

The first is on the West Bank. It’s absolutely clear what works: the Palestinians building institutions of security capacity and the rule of law, which they have done these past few years, and the ability then to get certain restrictions lifted and changed. Just to give you two small examples – actually one quite large example, which is Israeli Arabs coming in over the border into Jenin has made a huge difference to the economy of that place. Even small changes in restrictions in and around Bethlehem has made a big difference to elements of tourism there, but you can multiply that in every single part of the West Bank. Where there has been change and where Palestinians have been given freedom to go about their affairs, and the Palestinian Authority is exercising proper control as a would-be state should do, then a difference is made. I would just like to see much more of this done.

I think we have to put a special focus in the next period on Area C, where there have been some changes and some projects agreed, but actually there’s a lot more that would be done. I think it’s also very important, by the way, in East Jerusalem that we have measures on housing and education, particularly, and on business as well which allows greater opportunities for people there. But on the West Bank, there is absolutely no doubt what works and what we have been doing over these past few years, as I set out, these are difficult reports and obviously from the Palestinian Authority to the Government of Israel in points are in disagreement with one another, but actually at the point where they converge it’s perfectly clear: a state-building exercise from the ground up and lifting of restrictions and easing of occupation actually works and delivers.

The second thing is in respect of Gaza, where again following the changes that were made first of all in June 2010 and subsequent changes, and the reason why economic growth in Gaza has gone up, is in part due to illicit trade through the tunnels obviously, but is also in substantial part due to easing of restrictions and changes that have been made. These infrastructure projects, I think it is possible to get to the point in the next two or three years where with the right will we can have power and water and sanitation sorted out in Gaza, but we need a viable private sector.  We need Gazan business and the private sector to start again and start exporting their products.

Again, what works is absolutely clear: in so far as restrictions have been lifted, then it makes a difference. But of course of the security situation deteriorates, and people are firing rockets out of Gaza, it poses a problem and a penalty on the whole of the population there. Now again just to give another example, if we develop the Gaza Marine Project off the coast of Gaza, the difference for Gaza and the people would be absolutely enormous. In fact, it would transform the power ratios in the whole of the Palestinian Authority, so when we look at Gaza we look at the difficulties and challenges that are still there.

It again is absolutely obvious what works and what doesn’t. What works is, if we can achieve it, calm and peace so that people can move more stuff through the process if we can ease the restrictions and if we can get the private sector going. What doesn’t work, frankly, is either blockade on the one hand or attacks out of Gaza on the other.

Thirdly in respect of financing, here I’ve got to make a very strong plea to people. Over these past few years, I think literally one thing that everybody in the international community agrees is that Prime Minister Fayyad has achieved something quite remarkable with his colleagues and officials in terms of state building.  All those things people used to say, by the way, when they were giving money to Palestinians a few years back – ‘I don’t know where the money’s going’ – none of that is said anymore.  It therefore is to me, frankly, inexplicable if we end up with a donor financing problem right now.  This is the last time when we should have such a problem. The fact of the matter is whatever happens politically, it’s got to be right to carry on with that state-building programme, supporting it any way we can.

This Paris conference four years ago was in my experience I think the only donor conference I can remember since I have been in international politics when the money that was pledged was actually delivered. What’s more, certainly unique, the money being pledged and delivered was properly used. So the combination of those things should mean that we are supporting more of this, not less of it right now. To do otherwise, I think, is frankly irresponsible.

The final point on the politics, look, the IMF and World Bank reports have made it clear it’s now predicted a slowing of growth in the Palestinian economy. The reasons for that are multiple and the donor financing is obviously one, but the other is very frankly the cloud over the politics. We just have to be honest and clear about this: the one thing, again as I say we know what works and what doesn’t. What works is a sense of forward momentum in politics, which then supports the economy and security, and likewise improvements in economy and security support the politics. What doesn’t work is when the politics breaks down.

So my point on this is, and I think that has a direct and immediate economic impact by the way, so my point on this is very clear. Whatever happens this week, we are going to have to find a way of restoring the political process for the credibility that allows us to get a two-state solution that it is the common consensus that everyone wants to see.

So I think on the one hand we look back over the last years and the empirical evidence now of both achievement and what works is clear. The evidence of what doesn’t work is also clear.  So it’s really up to us to summon the will and frankly the foresight to understand that right at this moment in this region, the last thing that we need is a breakdown of the situation of state building from the Palestinian Authority. It has been a remarkable achievement over these past few years. It must, frankly, not be put at risk now. We have got to, in whatever way we can, safeguard that both in terms of that state-building exercise and in terms of the politics. I hope very much in the course of the next few days we can find a way through this issue in order to allow the aspirations that are yet to be finally fulfilled in the way that we want to see them for the Palestinian people as well.


Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter