Quartet Convenes in Washington
On Wednesday, April 11, the Middle East Quartet met in Washington, DC to discuss ways to encourage and support direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The meeting came ahead of Palestinian plans to deliver of a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 18.
The quartet issued a statement that received little media attention, but it does include some interesting diplomatic nuances. It handed out evenhanded admonishments, expressing concern about violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank and militants in Gaza.
The group also expanded and clarified their customary demand for both sides to refrain from “provocative actions,” saying, “The Quartet expressed concern about unilateral and provocative actions by either party, including continued settlement activity…” The addition of the word “unilateral” presumably refers to further efforts by Palestinian to seek recognition in the UN, while they call out Israel explicitly for “continued settlement activity.”
The Quartet statement also was notable for highlighting the need for Palestinian economic development in Area C that covers about 60% of the West Bank and is under full Israeli security and administrative control. This may well be an allusion to Israel demolition orders issued on structures and cisterns of Palestinian sheep herders’ camps, located in area such as the dry south Hebron hills, that are equipped with solar power units donated by Israeli and European groups.
Few expect the Abbas letter to Netanyahu will result in direct negotiations. Rather, both parties are seeking to avoid blame for the stagnating peace process. Abbas reportedly told a group, “If I don't receive a positive response from Netanyahu, I will resume the UN process and ask the UN General Assembly to receive the status of a nonmember state."
For his part, Netanyahu is planning to respond to the letter by offering to upgrade the talks to direct negotiations between himself and Abbas and insisting that neither side present any preconditions.
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