The Quartet conditions: Still standing

Since the conditions were first enunciated there was concern they would soon be thrown by the wayside.

hamas 88 (photo credit: )
hamas 88
(photo credit: )
In the tumultuous Middle East of the last 15 months - a Middle East that has gone through one war and various diplomatic maneuvers - there has been a single constant: The Quartet's three conditions that a Palestinian Authority government needs to accept to gain international legitimacy and funding. The Foreign Ministry on Thursday launched a campaign to ensure that these conditions remain intact in light of the new Palestinian unity government platform just released. While there are voices in Jerusalem saying that it is just a matter of time before the conditions are eroded, and while countries like Russia, France, Italy, Spain and Finland have already said they would like to see flexibility in these conditions, it is worth remembering that since the conditions were first enunciated on January 30, 2006, there has been concern that they would soon be thrown by the wayside. Yet they have survived the last 13 months, and Israeli government officials sounded confident Thursday that they would continue to last - especially since the US is firmly behind them - for the foreseeable future as well. The conditions were born four days after Hamas stunned Israel, the Arab world and the international community and won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, when representatives of the Quartet met in London to discuss the situation in the Middle East. That meeting was attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Ursula Plassnik, the foreign minister of Austria, which at the time held the EU's rotating presidency. At the end of the meeting Annan read out the Quartet's statement that included the following: "It is the view of the Quartet that all members of a future Palestinian government must be committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map." According to Israeli diplomatic officials, the Palestinian elections caught everybody by surprise, and no one had a prepared position that could be pulled from the drawer once the Palestinian elections results were announced. The officials said that although Israel lobbied the international community and the Quartet after the elections to keep Hamas at arm's length, it did not present it with a paper with the three criteria. Rather, the officials said, the conditions were drawn up among the Quartet principles in that London meeting. And despite skepticism that the conditions were not sustainable, they have lasted and indeed have been reiterated at six of the seven meetings of Quartet principals that were held since January 30, 2006. The last time was in Berlin on February 21, when the Quartet statement read, "The Quartet reaffirmed its statements regarding its support for a Palestinian government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map, and encouraged progress in this direction." The differences between that statement and the original one are negligible, and the goal of Israeli diplomacy now is to ensure that the platform of the new Palestinian government - one that doesn't forswear violence or directly recognize Israel - does not lead to an erosion in the Quartet's position.