Netanyahu praises 'brave Blair'
By Jackie Storer
Political reporter, BBC News
Former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has praised Tony Blair's handling of the Middle East crisis. "He has been very brave, especially because he's being attacked for standing up for his convictions," Mr Netanyahu told the BBC News website.
However, the leader of the opposition Likud party said he believed the draft UN resolution to halt fighting in the region was "overrated".
Mr Netanyahu said the only way to end the conflict was to disarm Hezbollah.
He gave his support to the British prime minister as Mr Blair flew out to the Caribbean to join his family on holiday.
Mr Blair has faced criticism from within his own party for refusing to call for an "immediate ceasefire".
"Mr Blair is doing a great deal. He's standing up for his beliefs - he is nobody's puppet"
He put back his three-week summer break for a few days to concentrate on rallying world leaders to support a US-Franco UN resolution for a ceasefire in the Middle East and has insisted he will remain in constant contact while he is
Mr Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister between 1996 and 1999, said he believed Mr Blair had correctly judged the situation, "that this is not a local conflict between two tribes".
He said Hezbollah regarded Israel as "the first step on the way to an Islamic empire" and "would not last a day without Iran, where its fighters are trained".
"It is a mad wisdom and it should not be dismissed because it's mad, just as Hitler - he started off as an attack on the Jews and this is the same thing," he said.
"Tony Blair understands this. Some of the chattering classes do not. They learnt nothing from history. They really think
it is a problem with Israel.
"Mr Blair is doing a great deal. He's standing up for his beliefs - he is nobody's puppet.
"He genuinely understands what is the correct picture. He is getting attacked from every side. That makes him more of
a leader, not less so.
"Leadership is tested in doing the unpopular things - not going with the flow."
No second guessing
Mr Netanyahu said he believed the current UN proposal was "overrated", especially with the existence of the UN
Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), which calls for foreign troops to leave Lebanon and for Lebanese sovereignty
to be respected.
"Hezbollah has to be disarmed by Israel - I doubt the international forces will do it and Iran and Syria have to be
persuaded, led by the US and Britain," he said.
Mr Netanyahu refused to comment on whether he would have done things differently to current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"I don't think it is useful to second guess a government. I didn't like what was done to me in the middle of military engagements when I was prime minister and I'm not going to do it to anybody else," he said.
Story from BBC NEWS:
TLS : THE LIVING STONES
"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have gone far enough, O princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign Lord." (Ezekiel 45:9).
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