Quartet envoy Tony Blair met separately Sunday with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in an effort to keep the sides
engaged and the situation stable.
Blair’s visit comes in advance of a
scheduled meeting of the Quartet in Washington on April 11. On Monday he will
hold meetings in Jordan and on Tuesday, US Middle East envoy David Hale will
follow Blair to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
official said the country wanted to see a resumption of diplomatic talks with
the Palestinians, and that there was “diplomatic work going on behind the
scenes” to get them restarted.
The official characterized Blair as a
“relevant interlocutor” who has been “in and out” of the Prime Minister’s Office
repeatedly in recent weeks.
Throughout January, Israeli negotiator
Yitzhak Molcho met chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat five times for
low-level preparatory talks in Jordan. The last round was held on January 25,
and the Palestinians said they would not resume until Israel stopped settlement
construction, agreed that negotiations would begin to use the pre-1967 lines as
the baseline and consented to the release of several Fatah prisoners.
late January and early February Blair was involved in intensive talks with
Netanyahu on creating a package of economic incentives to keep the Palestinians in the talks.
issues discussed at the time were primarily economic in nature, such as giving
the Palestinians greater access to Area C – the area comprising 62 percent of
the West Bank that is under Israeli control – to develop their
Those efforts seemed to founder, however, when PA President
Mahmoud Abbas signed an agreement with Hamas in Doha in early
Israel took a “wait and see” attitude regarding those talks,
not breaking off contact with the Palestinian Authority because of a sense that
the talks would not succeed.
In recent weeks, Israeli anger at the PA
centered not on any strides Fatah made toward reconciling with Hamas, but rather
with moves the PA initiated at the UN.
One such move was the recent
decision by the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a fact-finding mission to
study the impact of the settlements on Palestinian human rights.
move was fiercely denounced by Israel, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman
calling it “diplomatic terror,” and the Foreign Ministry saying the Palestinians
needed to “understand that they cannot have it both ways – they cannot enjoy
cooperation with Israel and at the same time initiate political clashes in
In private conversations Liberman was quoted as
saying that the current diplomatic process with the Palestinians had come to an
end, and there was a need to completely reassess the situation.
same time, there has been a great deal of discussion in recent weeks about a
letter Abbas planned to deliver to Netanyahu and the Quartet outlining the
Palestinians’ conditions for resuming the diplomatic process.
officials said last month that the letter would hold Israel responsible for the
failure of the diplomatic process because of its insistence on settlement
construction and refusal to recognize the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a
Israeli officials denied firsthand knowledge of any
such a letter, saying that merely restating previous Palestinian preconditions
would be unproductive.
Meanwhile, the Quartet principles – US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – are
scheduled to meet in Washington to discuss ways to move the diplomatic process
The Quartet last had an informal conversation on the sidelines
of a UN meeting that took place during last month’s spate of rocket attacks in
the South, but did not issue any significant policy statement at that
In September 2011 the Quartet met at the UN and – calling for an
Israeli-PA accord by the end of 2012 – issued guidelines for renewing
negotiations. Those guidelines have so far led nowhere.