Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair received the International Statesman Award from the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia on Tuesday night. While he is the Middle East Envoy of the Quartet, a fractious dispute between two Pennsylvania parties was on his mind.
“When I asked Senator Kerry what I should talk about in Philadelphia, he suggested that I offer to make peace between the Flyers and the Penguins,” said Blair. “I told him that achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israelis would be easier.”
Blair, who admitted that he did not really understand the Middle East as prime minister, has made 82 trips to the region since leaving office.
“One of the problems with the peace talks is that the negotiations are top down. Peace and coexistence need to be built bottom up,” said the Quartet’s Middle East envoy.
The onset of the Arab Spring has resulted in many forgetting about the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. “The West ignores the Palestinian-Israeli situation at their own peril. The West’s security depends on Israel’s security,” warned Blair.
During his talk, he also discussed Syria and Iran. He made it clear that Assad has to go and that 11 percent of the population can’t control all the power.”
In case of Iran, he is worried about more than them achieving nuclear capability. “Iran exports chaos and instability wherever they can.”
‘Sweet to beat Paris’
Extending an open invitation to everyone in the audience to attend the Olympic games in London, Blair provided an inside scoop on winning the bid against Paris.
“When I was asked as prime minister if it was especially sweet to beat Paris, I had to say no. But it was extra special to win against Paris.”
He continued: “Meeting with the Olympic officials tests your sports knowledge. My staff would prepare cards on each member detailing their sport etc. I met with one official, whose card read ice skater. I asked him what his greatest challenge was. He replied throwing for a long distance. It turned out that he was a javelin thrower.”