Can Mideast Quartet entice Palestinians to drop plan for UN vote on statehood?
Seeing peril from a UN vote in September on Palestinian statehood, the Mideast Quartet is seeking a way to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, which has sat empty for months.
The Middle East Quartet, the diplomatic powers focused on encouraging the peace process, is set to meet in Washington Monday with the aim of paving the way for a relaunch of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.Skip to next paragraph
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Prompting the unusual midsummer meeting of the four powers – the United States, European Union, Russia, and the United Nations – is no sudden uptick in violence, and certainly no signs that the two sides are itching to get back to the negotiating table, which has sat unused since last September.
Fearing that such a move would divide the international community at a particularly sensitive moment in the Arab world, and could ultimately feed a return to violence, the Quartet wants to set acceptable terms for both sides to resume peace talks in the coming weeks.
The idea is that a return to direct talks broadly following an outline set by President Obama in his May speech on the Middle East would allow the Palestinians to back down from their insistence on a statehood vote.
But even though Monday’s talks will feature the Quartet’s power players – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host the meeting – arriving at a restart of peace negotiations is anything but assured.
“The challenge now facing the Quartet is twofold,” says Khaled Elgindy, a visiting fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington. The first hurdle will be reaching a “genuine consensus” among the US, EU, UN, and Russia on a statement capable of initiating “a meaningful negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians.”
But even if the Quartet can do that, the looming second uncertainty is “whether anything they say will be sufficient to convince the Palestinians not to go ahead with the UN vote,” says Mr. Elgindy, who is a former member of the Palestinian negotiating support team.
The Palestinians say they would return to the table (and they hint they could shelve the September statehood bid) if talks on borders are based on the pre-1967 lines – as outlined in Mr. Obama’s speech – and if Israel declares a new settlement freeze.