Peace envoy Tony Blair issued a scathing condemnation of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens blamed by Israel on Hamas, telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the terror group had “a clear choice to make” and must renounce violence if Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts were to advance.
At the same time, Netanyahu urged Blair to push for international pressure on the Palestinian Authority to dissolve its reconciliation deal with Hamas.
Tuesday’s remarks by Blair, the official envoy of the Quartet on Middle East peace and a former British prime minister, firmly backed the Israeli stance that Hamas was behind the attack — allegations dismissed by its spokesman as “stupid.”
In a joint statement with Netanyahu, Blair expressed “his outrage” at the kidnapping and extended his “deepest sympathy” to the families.
The peace talks must be based on a two-state solution, Blair said. “That means that for Hamas, they have a very clear choice to make. There cannot be a choice that has political engagement on the one hand, and violence on the other. And the only way this is ever going to work is if all violence stops — the terrorism, the kidnappings, the killings.”
“The only way forward will be when Hamas understands that the only proper choice to make if you want peace is to engage in solely peaceful means to achieve political ends,” he added.
Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for the kidnappings of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Naftali Frankel, 16, south of Jerusalem on Thursday, though the international community has not pointed the finger with the same certitude as Jerusalem.
Speaking alongside Blair, Netanyahu reiterated his call for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to void a recently-reached unity pact with the terror group.
The international community must condemn Hamas, “support Israel’s right of self-defense,” and “call on President Abbas to end his pact with Hamas,” he said.
“Anybody who supports peace must tell the Palestinian Authority that they cannot build a government that is backed by the kidnappers of children and the murderers of innocents,” he added.
The prime minister maintained the “brutal” kidnapping “shows the true face of Hamas.”
“It’s not only committed to murdering Israelis — it’s committed to kidnapping children,” he said.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were officially suspended in late April, after Abbas brokered a deal with Hamas to establish a unity government. The new entity was denounced by Israel, but has been recognized by the UN, EU, and US, as well as other countries.