Pardon my cynicism, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Mideast Quartet is just another proxy group for the U.S. to stymie any real international effort to get Mideast peace talks restarted. In other words, as usual, the U.S. is the 800lb gorilla in the room throwing its weight around to protect Israel from having to do anything constructive.
According to this Haaretz article, Bibi Netanyahu is pretending to be concerned that the Quartet, which is meeting today, will issue a statement that embraces President Obama’s vague formulation for peace talks, ie. the “1967 lines.” The fact that Israel is worried about this shows just how NOT interested in peace negotiations they are. But they really aren’t worried because they know the role of the U.S. within the Quartet is to be their lackey. So, according to the article, the U.S. again seems to be using using it’s power to water down any eventual Quartet statement that is released, so as to not put
any too much pressure on our great ally, Israel.
What does the Quartet actually do, you ask? Well, they have meetings every so often over expensive lunches or dinners- so-called “Working Dinners.” Then they argue over the precise words that are to be used in the statement they eventually issue to the media after their meeting. Usually, Catherine Ashton and the Russian representative argue for more forceful language while the U.S. and Tony Blair insist on vague, meaningless language that cannot be interpreted as putting any pressure on Israel. That’s it! And they are done. What has the Quartet achieved over the last 3 years? Absolutely nothing. Basically, the Quartet is an integral part of the fiction that is the Mideast peace process.
In other words, they are totally useless.
UPDATE:The Quartet met last night and as predicted, nothing was accomplished. Not only that, but they did not issue a statement after their meeting. As noted above, this was ostensibly due to Israel’s expressed concerns about a public statement that might catch them off guard. In other words, the Quartet did not release a statement because Israel did not want them to. Based on a State Dept. background briefing I took part in via conference call last night, there appears to be a rift not only among the Israelis and Palestinians regarding how to move forward, but among the Quartet, with the U.S. (and probably Tony Blair) not wanting to put any public pressure on Israel and the other members wanting to apply slightly more pressure to both sides in order to get them back to the negotiating table prior to the September UN vote.
The Palestinians, for their part, had said publicly they wanted the Quartet to “do its job” and issue a strong statement outlining their expectations- ie. negotiations based on the framework outlined in Obama’s recent Mideast speech. Sounds reasonable, right? Apparently not.
I hope the Obama administration realizes how weak it looks. We’ve seen this pattern before- the administration outlines it’s expectations and plans for moving forward, Israel and the usual suspects balk and whine and threaten and then the Obama administration retreats. The fact that the U.S. apparently wouldn’t allow the Quartet to issue a statement reaffirming the Quartet’s belief that the negotiations should be based on the parameters outlined by the U.S. is truly pathetic. It sends a clear message that the U.S. either doesn’t have the political strength or the political will to promote in any meaningful way its own policies regarding Mideast peace. If the U.S. won’t stand behind it’s own stated principles on settlements, 1967 lines, land swaps etc., why should anyone else?
More importantly, what was the point of President Obama’s recent Mideast speech if he wasn’t prepared to follow up on it? Enough lofty-sounding speeches already, now do something.