Quartet envoy Tony Blair is expected to return to the region in a matter of days
to continue the Quartet’s search for a formula that will keep the Palestinians
from seeking statehood recognition at the UN in September and enable
negotiations to restart.
Blair’s expected visit comes fast on the heels
of a high-level Quartet meeting Monday in Washington that failed to result in
what many expected would be a joint statement including a formula for getting
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Israeli officials declined to discuss whether the reason
for the failure to come out with a statement was not only because of gaps
between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but also differences among members
of the Quartet themselves. The Quartet is made up of the US, EU, Russia
and the UN.
The Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Fatah’s commissioner
for international relations, Nabil Shaath, as saying Wednesday that Russia
“played a crucial role in preventing the Quartet from adopting a stance that
calls the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Shaath was quoted
as saying that Russia had foiled a call for an Israeli return to the 1967 lines
in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Shaath, who
praised Russia and its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow also
prevented pressure on the Palestinians not to see United Nations recognition in
Shaath met Lavrov last week in Moscow.
In advance of
Blair’s visit, one Israeli official said Israel was willing – and continues to
be willing – to “show flexibility,” an apparent reference to readiness to accept
a formula for negotiations based on the 1967 lines, with mutual swaps, if it
also included a call for a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish
The official said Israel was looking for a formula that would be
as specific on issues important to Israel – such as the question of Palestinian
refuges and security – as it was expected to be on issues important to the
Palestinians, such as the baseline of future borders.
If the Palestinians
are going to show any flexibility, the official said, it will only be because of
calls from the international community.
Regarding the specificity Israel
was looking for, the official said Jerusalem would like to see a formula that,
if it calls for negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines, would also say that
the international community believes Israel should be recognized as a Jewish
state; that Palestinian refugees should be absorbed outside Israel; and that
there have to be security measures on the ground to ensure Israel won’t be
attacked from territories from which it will withdraw.