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Mideast envoy endorses U.S. switch on settlements

From NBC's Andrea Mitchell
Special Mideast representative Tony Blair,
in Jerusalem today, endorsed last night's U.S. decision to stop opposing Israeli settlement expansion.

After taking a hard line on settlements for three years, the Obama White House gave up, seeing no chance that Israel's cabinet would go along with a settlement freeze.

Blair’s statement, which he gave in East Jerusalem:

"In respect of the peace process overall, let me again first of all say that I think that the decision that was announced last night is a sensible decision in light of the impasse that we reached and I just want to make two points on it.

"The first is that, despite this decision, there is no doubt at all in my mind that there remains a fixed determination, on behalf of the United States, the Quartet, and most important of all, in respect of the Israeli Government and the Palestinian leadership to make sure that we find a way to get a credible and serious negotiation back on track again.

"I think the decision to step back from a way of proceeding based around the moratorium is a sensible decision in light of what has happened. But I would not take that as a diminution in any way of people's determination to get this process going. It remains there and it remains the fixed resolution of everyone to make sure that we put this back together again in a way that is going to allow us to succeed.

"And secondly, this underscores and underlines once again the cardinal importance of the state building exercise of the Palestinian Authority, of the need to support that, of the need to get real change on the ground, because it is that change both in the West Bank and Gaza that gives us the best prospect of supporting a credible, negotiated peace.

"So I hope very much as well as the attempts to put this negotiation back together in a credible way over the coming weeks, we will see real change on the ground, and that's why incidentally the announcement today by the Israeli Cabinet on Gaza is also important."

According to the AP, U.S. officials insist that the administration is not giving up efforts to broker an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal, noting that negotiators from both ides will visit Washington next week for consultations.