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(photo credit: REUTERS)
Quartet representatives met separately on Thursday in Israel with both Israeli
and Palestinian officials, in what one Quartet source described as an attempt to
gauge where the sides stand and to look for ways to restart the
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This was one of the few times that the Quartet – comprised
of the US, EU, Russia and UN – has inserted itself to any serious degree into
the negotiations, as it is usually content to let the US alone fill that role.
This change reflects the desire not only of the Palestinians, who want to see
more of an international role in the diplomatic process, but also of the EU,
Russia and the UN for greater involvement.
Israel has long opposed
efforts to bring any third party except the US into the negotiation
The Quartet representatives – US Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s
adviser David Hale; the EU’s deputy secretary-general for the new External
Action Service, Helga Schmid; Russian Middle East envoy Sergei Yakovlev; and the
UN’s Mideast envoy, Robert Serry – met first with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. Four hours
later, they met Palestinian official Saeb Erekat at the UN headquarters in
No details of either meeting were provided.
senior-level meeting of the Quartet, originally scheduled for next week, has
been postponed until April, with the Palestinians pushing hard to get it to
issue a statement endorsing a two-state solution with the 1967 lines as the
baseline of a future Palestinian state.
“Such a declaration must include
recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and finding a just
solution to the case of the Palestinian refugees on the basis of UN [General
Assembly] Resolution 194,” Erekat said.
Israel is trying to prevent such
a move, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position being that the 1967
armistice lines would not give Israel secure and defensible
Using the 1967 lines as a baseline, for instance would foreclose
the possibility of an IDF security presence on the Jordan River, something that
Netanyahu is adamant that Israel must maintain.
It is in an effort to
keep the international community from taking diplomatic positions tilting toward
the Palestinians that Netanyahu is, according to officials in his office,
working on a diplomatic initiative that is expected to be unveiled, at the
latest, by the end of May.
Erekat and other PA representatives, including
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, on Thursday condemned remarks by Netanyahu
regarding the future of the Jordan Valley.
“By declaring that the Jordan
Valley will remain under Israeli control, the Israeli government is telling
everyone that there is no partner for peace,” Erekat said.
“We can’t talk
about a Palestinian state that does not exist on the borders of June 4, 1967,
and that does not include east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Also, the
entire West Bank and Gaza Strip must be one geographical unit,” he
Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said Israel needed to
clearly state its territorial objectives, to counter the Palestinians
increasingly effective use of “soft power,” rather than “fire and terrorism,” to
achieve their aim of a state within the 1967 lines.
Meridor, in an Israel
Radio interview, said it was inconceivable that Israel would return to the 1967
lines. “We will never agree to that,” he said.”
Meridor said that a new
Israeli initiative needed to include a renewed call for negotiations that set a
clear objective, and would force the PA to reveal it position on central issues
such as the refugees.
The Palestinian use of “soft power,” which Meridor
characterized as using flotillas to Gaza and protests in city squares with “very
Western slogans” like freedom and liberty, was something Israel “needed to pay
This new strategy was gaining achievements for the
Palestinians, and Israel needed to counter it through diplomatic means, he said.