The Quartet issued a statement Wednesday using well-worn language regarding the
settlements, but stopped far short of Palestinian hopes that it would blame
settlement construction for the impasse in the diplomatic process.
last paragraph of the 11-paragraph Quartet statement “expressed concern about
unilateral and provocative actions by either party, including continued
settlement activity, which cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations, the only
way to a just and durable solution to the conflict.”
The statement came
at the end of a meeting that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, UN
Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, Quartet envoy Tony Blair and Jordanian Foreign
Minister Nasser Judeh attended in Washington.
Jordan – not a member of
the Quartet – sponsored a round of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Amman in January.
A day before the
meeting, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Quartet should
publicly hold Israel responsible for derailing the peace process.
the statement did nothing of the kind, it did include a paragraph lumping
violent Palestinian extremism and incitement with settler
“Noting the significant progress on security achieved by the
Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the Quartet calls on the Palestinian
Authority to continue to make every effort to improve law and order, to fight
violent extremism, and to end incitement,” the statement read. “The Quartet also
expressed its concern over ongoing settler violence and incitement in the West
Bank and calls on Israel to take effective measures, including bringing the
perpetrators of such acts to justice.”
One Israeli official said the
Quartet seemed to merely “cut and paste” language from previous statements the
EU issued after various meetings on the Mideast, without noticing that in recent
weeks there have been significantly fewer instances of what had come to be known
as “price tag” violence and vandalism against Palestinians in the West
The statement renewed the Quartet’s commitment to the framework it
laid out in September that called for an initial meeting between the two sides
within 30 days, leading to the trading of comprehensive proposals on security
and territory within three months, direct negotiations and an overall agreement
by the end of 2012.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a communiqué
welcoming the Quartet statement “calling for a continuation of direct talks
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the
communiqué said, will suggest to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad when they meet
next week that the level of talks between the two sides be upgraded, and that he
meet directly with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Fayyad is expected to
deliver a letter
to Netanyahu spelling out the Palestinian position on the
talks. A few days later, Netanyahu’s negotiator Yitzhak Molcho is expected to
deliver a letter in response to Abbas.
The Quartet statement, meanwhile,
called on the international community to “ensure the contribution of $1.1
billion in assistance to meet the Palestinian Authority’s 2012 recurrent
financing requirements,” noting the “increasing fragility of developments on the
ground” and the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal challenges.
officials interpreted this as a call on Israel not to take any punitive
financial measures against the PA in response to Palestinian unilateral moves in
The statement also encouraged Israel and the PA “to
cooperate to facilitate the social and economic development of Area C, which is
of critical importance for the viability of a future Palestinian state as well
as for its Palestinian inhabitants to be enabled to lead a normal life.” Area C
is the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control, and in recent months
there has been talk of the Palestinians – supported by certain European
countries – unilaterally starting projects in that area.
officials said that what was important about the Quartet statement was that it
called for developments in Area C through Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. Blair
has been working with Israel to allow more Palestinian economic activity in that
area, but the Fatah and Hamas reconciliation agreement signed in Doha in
February temporarily shelved those plans.
The Quartet said that the
situation “in and around Gaza” will remain “fragile and unsustainable as long as
the West Bank and Gaza are not reunited under the legitimate Palestinian
Authority adhering to the PLO commitments.”
The statement also condemned
the rocket attacks from Gaza, without blasting Israel for its retaliatory