As Israeli ground forces continue to move further into Gaza City on the 18th day of their offensive, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the possibility of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas "hangs in the balance."
"I think the next 48 to 72 hours are pretty crucial," Blair told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden.
Blair arrived in Washington late Monday night from Egypt, where he was negotiating a cease-fire, and sat down with McFadden at the British Embassy to discuss the situation. Blair was appointed 18 months ago as a special envoy to the Middle East representing the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
Blair says the agreement being negotiated in Cairo centers on Israel being confident that there will no longer be "smuggling of weapons and rockets coming into Gaza which Hamas then uses to fire onto Israel citizens" and for Hamas to be assured that "there is the reopening of the Gaza crossing so that Gaza can be rejoined with the rest of the world."
"In essence, that is the deal," Blair said, "and as we speak, people are negotiating."
When asked if it was appropriate to negotiate with Hamas, Blair said, "well, that's a big debate and one that at some point is worth having. Truthfully, in this situation, the reason there's a problem is not a failure of communication. ... Because people have been sitting down and saying to them, 'This is what is necessary.' They know what's being offered them, the question is whether or not they'll accept it."
In response to the debate about whether Hamas should be part of the ongoing, lasting search for peace in the Middle East, Blair said that he doesn't believe a two-state solution is possible unless Hamas is "prepared to commit to peace" and that there is a role for Hamas in a peaceful Middle East once they decide if "they are going to be part of the solution or continue as they are now to be part of the problem.
"If you want a two state solution -- state of Israel, state of Palestine -- there is only one state of Palestine, and at the moment, the West Bank, where the most Palestinians live and the biggest amount of territory, is separated from Gaza. Hamas runs Gaza; the West Bank is run by the legitimate Palestinian authority. So if we want to get a viable peace process, we have to reunite Gaza and West Bank. Now, Hamas can be part of that and they can be part of the process. But it's difficult to make them part of the process toward two states -- Israel and Palestine -- unless they accept the existence of Israel and accept their pursuit of the state of Palestine has to be done peacefully and not through terrorism."
Blair stressed that differences over issues such as how to handle Jerusalem refugees and precise territorial boundaries are "major issues, very complicated issues" but "not impossible issues, if you want to resolve this."
When questioned about whether the Israeli reaction had been proportional to the actions taken by Hamas and if Israel had taken adequate steps to prevent civilian casualties, Blair said, "I don't recognize the concept of proportion when you've got hundreds of young children dying.