The former prime minister, 70, is part of the ongoing effort to ensure that the UK’s concerns over how Israel is conducting its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip are ‘well-ventilated’, Andrew Mitchell, the minister for development and Africa, said in the Commons on Tuesday.
‘There have been regular discussions between our prime minister and prime minister Netanyahu,’ he told MPs, following a question from Slough’s MP, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, about whether the UK has been working to get Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.
Also the foreign secretary has been part of those discussions too. I think Sir Tony Blair is seeing prime minister Netanyahu shortly too,’ he added.
Despite not being directly on the frontlines of politics anymore, Blair has been given the blessing of the UK government to get involved in unofficial talks with Netanyahu, The Times reported, quoting a government source who said: ‘He knows Netanyahu very well and is a force for good.’
It is not currently known what role Blair will play in these talks.
A spokesperson for Blair refused to comment on private meetings, telling the Times: ‘He is discussing the situation with a number of people in the region and elsewhere to see what can be done.’
Israeli media previously touted Blair as a potential intermediary in negotiations, and was reportedly backed by Netanyahu personally.
His non-profit, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, has an office in Israel, and he himself has known Netanyahu for over 25 years, first hosting him in Downing Street in 1997.
Talks between Israel and Hamas broke down weeks ago, following the weeklong ceasefire deal at the end of November, which saw 110 hostages captured by Hamas during the Black Saturday incursion in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners being freed from Israeli jails.
Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, told ambassadors on Tuesday that ‘Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages.
But Hamas has stuck to its guns and said that no hostages can be released until Israel agrees to a full ceasefire, which Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected.
Despite this, sources said that Qatar-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh will visit Egypt on Wednesday for talks on a ceasefire in Gaza and a prisoner exchange with Israel.
Late last week, the head of Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, David Barnea, met with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss a potential new deal, though it is not currently known what was said.
As leaders from across the world discussed new pathways towards peace, Israel maintained its bombardment and ground combat Tuesday in the third month of the bloodiest-ever Gaza war, which started with unprecedented attacks by Hamas against Israel on October 7.