Israel US flags.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The purpose of a new report published by the Middle East Quartet on Friday is to urge “affirmative steps” toward peace from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – not to assign blame for the stalemate, a senior Obama administration official told The Jerusalem Post upon the report’s release.
One of the “primary drivers” of the report, the official said, is US President Barack Obama’s concern that “while the leaders and people on both sides express support for the two-state solution, continuing on the current course will make this prospect increasingly remote.
We’re concerned that if there are not significant changes, it will risk entrenching a one-state reality.”
The report, composed by the US, UN, EU and Russia, carefully places blame for the continuation of the conflict on both sides: Israel for its continued settlement activity, and the Palestinians for continued violence and terrorism leveled against Israeli civilians from the West Bank.
Additionally, the report condemned the continued buildup of arms by Hamas in Gaza, and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to exert control over the strip.
“The main objective of the report is not to assign blame, but rather to provide a way forward to support the goal we all share of achieving a negotiated two-state solution,” the official said. “That’s why the report stresses the urgent need for affirmative steps to reverse each of these trends and calls on both parties to independently demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly rejected the report’s assertion that settlements have anything to do with the lack of progress toward peace, pointing to past settlement construction freezes and Israel’s full pullout of the Gaza Strip, both of which resulted “in war.”
But State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday that the report reinforces the longstanding, nonpartisan views of the State Department, a sentiment the White House official said: “We would emphasize.”
“We are hoping to provide a constructive path that can help advance the two-state solution on the ground and create the conditions for meaningful negotiations at an appropriate time in the future,” the White House official said.
American Jewish groups weighed in on the report on Friday.
J Street, a group that primarily lobbies for a two-state solution, hailed it as an “accurate assessment of the situation and a grave warning,” while the Anti-Defamation League thanked the Quartet for calling on the PA to end its incitement to violence against Israelis.