Peace Negotiators Converge on Israel

July 26, 2007 11:17 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Tony Blair, in his new role as special Middle East envoy, and Arab League representatives arrived in Israel this week on separate missions to try to revive the peace process.

30-Second Summary

Tony Blair, who stood down as British prime minister last month, made his first visit to Israel in his job as a Middle East negotiator on Monday.

He represents the Quartet, which comprises Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, in its bid to negotiate a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

To some commentators, Blair is a peculiar choice as envoy. He is seen as carrying cumbersome baggage in the form of his close ties to President George W. Bush and his support for the Iraq War.

However, he has a proven record in mediating between sectarian groups in Northern Ireland.

There were other visitors to Israel seeking to play the role of peacemaker. Arab League representatives made a historic visit to the country whose legitimacy the league refused to recognize for many years.

The drive for peace comes at a time when the conflict is complicated by the split in the Palestinian leadership, now divided between Fatah on the West Bank and the more militant Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Arab League proposes Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders. That issue will be key in any future peace plan.

Headline Links: Blair's "sense of possibility" and the Arab League's visit to Jerusalem

Background: Bush's Mideast policy, Abbas, and the rise of Hamas

President George W. Bush

Opinion: Who should negotiate?

Tony Blair
Peace Initiative

History: Israel's founding to the Six-Day War


Israel was founded after World War II under the auspices of the United Nations. The Arab states of the Middle East refused to endorse the UN plan for the creation of a Jewish homeland on territory that was part of what was then known as Palestine.

When in 1948 the British mandate to govern Palestine ended, Israel declared independence, and five Arab armies attacked the fledging state. Over 15 months of fighting, Israel repelled the attackers and, in doing so, took more land than was originally apportioned it by the United Nations. Non-Jewish residents fled from both within the original borders of Israel and from the land that had been annexed, becoming the first of the Palestinian refugees.
Six-Day War

Israel began to expect an attack was imminent when Egypt’s President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt sent troops into the Sinai, the isthmus of land joining Egypt to Israel, and set up a naval blockade around the Red Sea port town of Eilat. In June 1967, Israel acted pre-emptively to counter the strike it alleged was being planned by the neighboring Arab states.

In responding as it did, Israel won a decisive victory, not only crushing the armed forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, but also occupying territory in the Sinai, the Golan Heights,  Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The war is widely seen as a turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Afterwards, there was little doubt that Israel possessed the upper hand militarily, and the Palestinians despaired of receiving effective military assistance.

The Arab League’s peace plan introduced to Israel on July 25, 2007, focuses on Israel’s withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967.

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