Tony Blair: World Leaders Were Wrong to Boycott Hamas After 2006 Palestinian Elections

Former British prime minister says the international community shouldn't have capitulated to Israeli pressure

At visit to UN-run school in Gaza City, Tony Blair on February 15, 2015, speaks with Palestinians who had lost their homes in 2014 war with Israel.
Associated Press

The United Kingdom and other nations were wrong to boycott Hamas after it won the Palestinian election in 2006, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview for a new book on Gaza.

Blair, the prime minister at the time, said he and other leaders capitulated to pressure from Israel and cut ties with the newly elected Hamas government. But instead, the international community should have tried to “pull Hamas into a dialogue,” Blair said in an interview for Donald Macintyre's "Gaza: Preparing for Dawn," which is set to be released in November. The quotes were published on Saturday by The Guardian

Blair backed a decision by former U.S. President George W. Bush to boycott Hamas and cut aid to the group if it didn't recognize Israel, an ultimatum the group rejected. 

“In retrospect I think we should have, right at the very beginning, tried to pull [Hamas] into a dialogue and shifted their positions," Blair was quoted as saying. “But obviously it was very difficult, the Israelis were very opposed to it. But you know we could have probably worked out a way whereby we did – which in fact we ended up doing anyway, informally.”

Blair served as envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East – composed of the U.S., EU, UN and Russia – from 2007 to 2015, and later held meetings with Hamas officials in part to negotiate a possible long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. 

The remarks emerged days after Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement meant to mend a split that saw Hamas ruling Gaza and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority controlling the West Bank. 

According to The Guardian, the book also quotes internal British defense documents from 2006 that warned against shunning Hamas. One document suggested that while Hamas might refuse to disavow terrorism and recognize Israel in the short term, "ultimately Hamas’s participation in the realities of political responsibility might bring about Hamas’s transformation to a political rather than terrorist organization.”