Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
The Quartet issued yet another call for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks
“without delay or preconditions” following separate meetings its envoys had
Wednesday in Jerusalem with Palestinian and Israeli officials.
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the third time the Quartet has held such meetings in Jerusalem, and put out a
similar statement, since September 23, when it issued a framework for returning
to talks and when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas went to the UN
to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state.
That framework 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, and an
overall agreement by the end of 2012.
Even that first direct meeting
never took place, because of a Palestinian refusal to enter talks until Israel
froze all construction beyond the Green Line and agreed to negotiate on the
basis of the pre-1967 lines. Instead, Quartet envoys and representative Tony
Blair have come for separate talks with the sides about once a
According to a statement the Quartet – made up of the US, EU, UN
and Russia – issued after Wednesday’s meetings, the envoys stressed “the
important objective of a direct exchange between the parties without delay or
preconditions beginning with a preparatory meeting and leading to the
presentation of proposals on territory and security.”
The wording of the
statement seemed to support Israel’s interpretation that the comprehensive
security and territorial proposals were to come about through direct
negotiations between the sides, and not be presented separately to the Quartet
by the parties.
In a break from the past two meetings the Quartet envoys
have held here, this time the envoys did not meet with Palestinian negotiator
Saeb Erekat – who was in Brussels – but with a lowerlevel Palestinian official.
On the Israeli side, they met, as usual, with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho.
Earlier this week, the Palestinians
rejected an Israeli call to use Wednesday’s Quartet visit as a time for Molcho
and Erekat to begin direct talks.
“If the Palestinian side continues to
refuse to negotiate to solve problems to move the peace process forward, then
this raises serious questions as to their seriousness and to their commitment to
a negotiated peace,” said Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev.
Dennis Ross, the recently retired White House Middle East adviser, said at a
speech Tuesday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that the
“psychological gap” separating the two sides remained wide, though on the
substantive issues the parties were close.
He said that Jerusalem should
seek to validate the current PA leadership that believes in nonviolence and
negotiations, and that the way to do this was to give signs that the
“occupation” was diminishing. To this end, he suggested increasing the
Palestinian police presence in Area B, which is under joint Arab-Israeli
security control, and giving the Palestinians economic access to Area C, which
is under total Israeli control.
Ross, who downplayed the possibility of
any dramatic breakthrough, did advise Israel against waiting to see how the
events in the region played out before moving forward with the
If Israel waited, he said, its options would shrink.