Friday, July 27, 2007

Blair Asserts ‘Sense of Possibility’ After Meeting 2 Sides in Jerusalem as Mideast Peace Envoy


JERUSALEM, July 24 — Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, on his first visit to Jerusalem in his new post as international diplomat seeking to advance Mideast peace, declared after meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders that he felt “a sense of possibility.”

He declined, however, as did those he met, to explain the basis for his optimism at a time of deep political divisions and weak regional leadership....

He met with Fatah and independent politicians in the Palestinian government but did not speak to the Hamas faction, elected by Palestinians and running Gaza and regarded as a terrorist group by Israel and the West. He may well make discreet contact with Hamas through independent intermediaries, however....

That effort suffered somewhat overnight, when elite Presidential Guard units reportedly mistreated the daughter and son of the jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. According to an account in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the guards stopped the daughter, Ruba Barghouti, in a car. The guardsmen laughed at her, she called relatives who came, and a fight occurred.

Similar accounts of rudeness and criminal activity by Fatah-affiliated gunmen and security forces have regularly angered Palestinians. ...

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud opposition, recommended to Mr. Blair specific economic incentives from private industry that could quickly improve the economy in the West Bank and create jobs, a Netanyahu aide said. Mr. Netanyahu warned against relying on the public sector, which has been slow and corrupt.

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