quartet REUTERS 311.
If the Quartet feels obligated to propose outlines of a final
Israeli-Palestinian settlement at the end of its upcoming meeting, it needs to
take into account Israeli demands, not only Palestinian ones, government sources
said this week amid speculation the Quartet may delineate how it sees a final
Britain, France and Germany have reportedly been urging the
EU and the UN to propose a statement that would say that a future agreement
would be based upon the 1967 lines “with agreed upon land swaps,” and reach a
“just fair and agreed solution to the refugee question.” One of the key sticking
points in relaunching Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has been the Palestinian
insistence that the baseline for talks be a return to the 1967 lines, and
Israel’s position that those lines are not sacrosanct, and that what needed to
be discussed were secure and defensible borders – something Israel says is not
provided by the 1967 lines.
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Israeli officials have recently articulated frustration that some inside the EU
are interested in the Quartet issuing a statement mentioning the “1967 lines
with agreed upon land swaps,” while ignoring Israeli demands, such as that any
future Palestinian state needed to be “demilitarized,” and that the Palestinians
must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
specific on the issue of borders, but not on anything else?” one official
The possibility of the Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia and
the UN – issuing a farreaching statement is seen by some diplomatic officials as
a reflection of that body’s impatience with the stalemated diplomatic process,
and an attempt to entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating
Quartet envoy Tony Blair articulated this sense of urgency in an
article in the Wall Street Journal and the Times on March 19, stating that “we
ignore the importance of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians at
our peril. This absolutely must be revitalized and relaunched. I know it is said
that this wasn’t the issue behind the uprisings.
That is true. But we are
deluding ourselves if we don’t think that its outcome matters profoundly to the
region and the direction in which it develops.”
The idea of the Quartet
presenting what it sees as the parameters of a future solution is viewed by some
in Jerusalem as an attempt to show the Palestinians an “end game,” so they might
overcome their objections to negotiating with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
until he stops all settlement construction, including in
Israeli officials, however, doubt this tactic will work, and
that if the Palestinians see that they can get benefits from the international
community as a result of refusing to engage with Israel, they will continue to
refuse to negotiate, believing this will bring them even more.
say that this creates the “illusion” that the international community can
deliver a peace agreement while avoiding Israel, something one official
characterized as a “mirage.”
The Palestinians will only return to the
table, the official said, if the international community makes clear that the
Palestinians will get nothing without returning to talks.
The Quartet is
expected to meet in mid-April at the most senior level – US Secretary of State
Hilary Clinton, EU foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton, Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Blair. No date or
venue has yet been set, leading to some doubt in Jerusalem about whether the
meeting – at a time when the world’s attention is focused on other nations in
the region – will even take place.
A planned high-level Quartet meeting
in March was cancelled, soon after Netanyahu’s aides indicated that he was on
the cusp of delivering a major policy address, likely to the US Congress in May.
Talk about that address has been overshadowed by regional events, including the
terrorist attacks in Itamar and Jerusalem, and the continuing shelling of the
Nevertheless, Netanyahu is still planning on going to Washington
toward the end of May, coinciding with the annual American Israel Public Affairs
Committee meeting in Washington that begins on May 22. He also is still planning
an address to Congress.
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