Nearly six months after the Quartet set out principles to get Israel and the Palestinians back into
negotiations, the group is scheduled to meet on Monday at the UN to discuss the
stalled diplomatic process.
The meeting comes less than a week after
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington during which the
Palestinian issue was pushed to the side, with Netanyahu not even talking about
it publicly and US President Barack Obama speaking about it only very briefly
during his public statement with Netanyahu.
Nevertheless, the prime
minister’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, Yitzhak Molcho, did take part
in the meetings in Washington, and US and Israeli officials did talk about the
process during a luncheon meeting between Obama, Netanyahu and their expanded
staffs. However, that conversation took place during the second half of the
Netanyahu-Obama meeting, and Iran – not the Palestinians – was the main focus of
attention this time in Washington.
The Quartet – made up of the US, EU,
Russia and UN – met on September 23 at the UN, as Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas was seeking Palestinian statehood recognition, and put
forward a framework for talks that it hoped would culminate in an agreement by
the end of 2012.
While preliminary talks between Molcho and Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat took place in January under Jordan’s auspices, the last
meeting occurred on January 25, and since then, the Palestinians have refused to
return to talks until Israel freezes settlement construction, releases some
Fatah prisoners and agrees to enter negotiations on the basis of a return to the
Israel, meanwhile, has said it will not renew the talks
until it becomes clear whether – as part of a Fatah- Hamas reconciliation
agreement – Hamas will join the PA government. Netanyahu has made clear that Israel would not negotiate with the
Palestinians if Hamas was part of the government.
An Israeli package of
economic gestures that Quartet envoy Tony Blair was working on with Netanyahu at
the end of January to keep the Palestinians in the talks was put on hold as a
result of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks.
According to a UN press
release, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet at the UN ahead of a
special Security Council session on the Arab Spring. The other Quartet
principals – EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Blair – will
participate via video link.
Reuters reported UN diplomats as saying that
Russia was pushing for the Quartet meeting. Russia and China have found
themselves isolated lately on the Security Council because of their support for
Syrian President Bashar Assad.