Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair 'played key role' in building foundations for UAE-Israel normalisation

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair 'played key role' in building foundations for UAE-Israel normalisation
The former UK prime minister was instrumental in paving the way for UAE-Israel normalisation, according to media reports.
3 min read
10 September, 2020
Netanyahu and Blair meeting in 2014 [Getty]
Secret meetings brokered by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair paved the way towards the controversial normalisation deal between the UAE and Israel, unveiled to the public on 13 August.

Blair, who also served as a Special Quartet Envoy to the Middle East from 2007 until 2015, had organised under-the-table meetings between Yitzhak Molcho, an ex-adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in European and Persian Gulf capitals, an Israeli news outlet has claimed.

The former adviser held secret meetings in London, Abu Dhabi, and Nicosia, before the UAE-Israel normalisation deal was agreed.

Molcho led the talks between 2015 to 2018 before he was forced to step down as Netanyahu’s adviser after a scandal erupted over the Israeli navy's efforts to purchase German submarines, Israeli news outlet Israel Hayom reported.

In an interview with the news outlet, Blair confirmed that "the meetings were held from 2015 until the forced resignation of Molcho in 2018, at which point he stopped helping Netanyahu, after being falsely accused of being involved in the submarine case".

The report added: "Blair said that it was Israel's agreement to shelve its plan to extend sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley under the US's Middle East peace plan that created the opportunity to push for normalizing ties between the two states."

The meetings helped two countries overcome the embarrassment caused by a Mossad operation in Dubai in 2010, and paved the way for closer cooperation between the UAE and Israel.

"The talks helped rebuild trust between Israel and the UAE in the wake of the animosity created by the 2010 assassination of top Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai by Mossad intelligence agency officers," the report stated.

Blair has been entangled in the Middle East for decades, from the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 to his appointment as peace envoy.

In 2017 UK media claimed that Tony Blair was given millions of dollars by the UAE while serving as Middle East peace envoy, emails at the time revealed.

Tony Blair Associates received the funds while attempting to help negotiate a peace between Palestinian and Israeli parties, The Daily Telegraph revealed at the time.

Blair's London office was financed by the UAE, while Tony Blair Associates also received funds from Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, it was alleged.

Tony Blair says the money was used to finance travel expenses for him and his staff, but refused to comment on the purpose of the meeting between his chief-of-staff as peace envoy and Abu Dhabi's Khaldoon Al-Mubarak.

Critics said such arrangement may have been a conflict of interest due to his roles as Quartet envoy and consultant for a number of Middle East and Central Asian regimes.

Normalisation marks the end of two-state solution?

Normalisation between the UAE and Israel has been strongly condemned by Palestinian leaders.

The deal would kill a two-state solution, strengthen "extremists" and undermine the "possibility of peace", chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Ereket said last month.

Palestinian factions on Thursday staged a rare show of unity to underline their rejection of the US-backed normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE.

"We cannot accept anyone speaking in our name. We have never allowed it, and we will not allow it, ever," said PA President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah beamed live by video-conference to a parallel meeting held at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut.

"We will never accept the United States as the sole mediator for negotiations (with Israel), and we will not accept its plan" for a peace settlement, said Abbas, calling for Palestinian "unity" in the face of Washington's strategy.

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