Netanyahu Obama 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
In an apparent effort to keep the most recent Quartet initiative alive, the US
embassy circulated a statement on Tuesday giving the impression both Israel and
the Palestinians have equally accepted a Quartet framework for returning to
direct talks, though the Palestinians have not yet formally endorsed the
Under the proposal, Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to sit
down for a preparatory meeting by October 23, or two weeks from
Encountering Peace: Yes, but!
Israel says ‘yes’ to Quartet framework for talks
The statement by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland,
released in Washington on Sunday but belatedly distributed here only on Tuesday,
addressed Israel’s formal endorsement of the Quartet plan for restarting
“We welcome the Israeli government’s announcement today expressing
readiness to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, as called for by the
Quartet,” the statement said. “The Palestinians expressed support for the
Quartet approach on September 29.”
On Sunday, Israel “welcomed the
for direct negotiations,” while saying it had “some concerns”
that it will raise “at the appropriate time.”
The Quartet proposal calls
for a preparatory meeting between the parties to agree on an agenda for talks
within a month, a date which falls just after Succot.
The proposal calls
for both parties at that meeting to commit to the objective of reaching an
agreement no later then the end of 2012, to come up with concrete ideas on
borders and security within 90 days and to have made “substantial progress”
within six months.
On September 29, PLO secretary- general Yasser Abed
Rabbo said after a meeting of the PLO’s executive committee that the Quartet
statement “contains encouraging elements, and we call on Israel to announce its
commitment to the principle and points of reference it identifies.”
Palestinians have said that they will not resume talks until Israel completely
freezes construction beyond the Green Line, and accepts the pre-1967 lines as
the basis for future negotiations.
While neither of these points is
mentioned specifically in the Quartet statement, something applauded by Israel,
the Palestinians maintain that a clause in that declaration calling upon “the
parties to refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to be effective”
is in fact a call on Israel to stop settlement construction.
the pre-1967 lines as the baseline for talks, the Palestinians maintain that the
Quartet accepted that position when it “reaffirmed its statement of [the] 20th
[of] May 2011, including its strong support for the vision of Israeli-
Palestinian peace outlined by United States President Barack Obama.”
vision referred to was Obama’s State Department speech on May 19 when he said
negotiations should be based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed
The Palestinians have called on the Quartet members – the US, EU,
Russia and the UN – to provide further clarifications regarding settlement
construction and the “terms of reference” for the negotiations.
Quartet statement for restarting talks was released on September 23 in New York
following speeches to the UN General Assembly by Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Abbas announced
during his speech that the Palestinians were formally applying for full
statehood membership in the UN.
Diplomatic officials said that there were
currently intensive efforts behind the scenes, including during US Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to the region on Tuesday, to prod the sides back
to the table.
In a related development, Israel continued to maintain a
silence on Tuesday over a US congressional decision – despite the US
administration’s opposition – to withhold some $200 million in financial
assistance to the PA.
In August, Netanyahu told large Democratic and
Republican congressional delegations visiting the country that the time was not
yet right to financially sanction the PA, because it was unclear what would
happen at the UN. He reportedly made these comments at the request of US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But while it was one thing to give an
opinion to congressional delegations before a decision was made, lobbying
against a decision once it was taken was “a bridge too far,” one government
official said, explaining the government’s current silence on this
Asked what Israel’s preference was regarding the funds, the
official sidestepped, saying that what Israel wanted was for the PA not to take
its statehood bid to the UN, and to return to negotiations without