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Arabs ready to normalize Israel ties: Blair

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says if Israel agrees to a Saudi "peace" initiative, Arab states will be willing to normalize their relations with Tel Aviv.

“Provided the Israeli administration is ready to commit to a discussion around the Arab peace initiative... it would be possible to have some steps of normalization,” the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Blair as saying. 

“With the new leadership in the region, today that is possible," he said, citing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

 Last week, Sisi called on Israeli officials and the Palestinians to grasp what he termed a “real opportunity” for peace.

"A lot will depend on the response of the Israeli administration to President Sisi’s initiative and to the Arab peace initiative, and to whatever steps the Israelis are ready to take,” he added.

Israeli media reported on Friday that Saudi Arabia and its allies have asked Israel to resume Middle East negotiations under new terms which include changes to Riyadh's "peace" initiative.

The kingdom, its Persian Gulf allies, Jordan and Egypt have been sending messages to Israel through various emissaries, including former British PM Tony Blair, the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva reported.

"They are expecting to receive from Israel a response and are also expecting Israel to make gestures toward the Palestinians" in the West Bank, the paper said.

The Saudi "peace" initiative, unveiled in 2002, offers to normalize ties with Israel by 22 Arab countries in return for Tel Aviv's withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.

Tel Aviv has rejected the Saudi initiative due to the fact that it calls for Israel to accept the right of return for the Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes under the Israeli occupation.

Saudi Arabia and its allies are now prepared to discuss changes to the initiative in order to resume talks between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority.

The daily Maariv revealed earlier this month that the Israeli regime would present a bill to the Knesset in the coming weeks, calling for the annexation of 60% of the West Bank.

According to the paper, preliminary talks have been held to annex Area C of the West Bank where more than 350,000 illegal Israeli settlers are based.

Nevertheless, there is a desire among the leadership of the Arab countries in the region to change their attitude towards Israel and to start taking an active mediating role, Channel 10 reported, citing diplomatic sources.

'US, UK miscalculated Iraq chaos'

Blair also said the US and Britain “profoundly” miscalculated the disorder and chaos that the ouster of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would create in back in 2003.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with British monthly Prospect, Blair however said the West should be prepared to put boots on the ground in the Middle East again if it ever wanted to "defeat" Daesh.

“In my view, defeating them is absolutely fundamental because if we don’t defeat them, they are going to come and attack us here. This is not someone else’s fight, it is our fight as well,” he said.

Blair admitted that the West had not foreseen the “forces of destabilization” that would fill the vacuum after Saddam’s overthrow.

“We underestimated profoundly the forces that were at work in the region and that would take advantage of the change once you topple the regime,” he said.

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