The Mideast Quartet *updated*


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.

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Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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7 Comments on “The Mideast Quartet *updated*”

  1. Lavahmed Says:

    The Quartet should use its power as an international group to get both sides to make concessions to get back to the table. Palestinians can give up statehood bid in September in return for Israel agreement to negotiate on borders first based on 1967 lines. I think the Pals would come back to the table even without settlement freeze. If the Quartet does not insist on this of Israel then they are truly useless. Who needs more meetings and more carefully worded statements intended not to offend Israel?

    Your President Barack Obama is a disappointment. His speech in Cairo gave people hope and he dashed those hopes. He will not do anything before his next reelection and even then, after, will he? if he is reelected can we count on the Obama administration to finally do what is necessary to get the parties back talking? I used to think yes but now I think no.

    Reply

  2. Lavahmed Says:

    Very good site by the way. I found it on Twitter. Israeli journalist linked to it.

    Reply

  3. seamus6 Says:

    It’s too bad, really. The US could always let the Quartet release harsher statements without having to shoulder all the blame.

    Sorry mates but the U.S. has shown that for the past several decades they really can’t achieve peace. All they have achieved is hundreds of thousands more settlers and the impossibility of a two state solution because so much land has been taken. IT’s really not fair to the Palestinians that they have to essentially negotiate with two Israels- the actual Israel, and then the United States. The US isn’t a mediator, it’s one of the parties!

    The UN needs to take over and when Israel complains, slap sanctions on them. Its obvious neither party can or is willing to make the necessary compromises but the whole world has to pay the price and in particular the US. Hillary often says no one can force a solution. The hell we can’t! The US forces other nations to do things all the time! It’s simply a matter of being willing to do so and the U.S. is not.

    Reply

    • Stacy Says:

      Yes, it’s not good that the U.S. is always the outlier while most of Europe, Asia etc. wants to see concrete proposals put out by the Quartet/international community. Right now the State Dept. is having to work hard to try to keep the Europeans at bay- hence, our refusal to let the French host a Mideast peace summit. It’s clear the Europeans are not at all pleased about the possibility of having to vote “no” on a UN resolution for palestinian statehood, particularly given the total failure of the US-led peace talks.

      In a way some of this is good though- it’s clear that Europe is making it clear to the US that if progress isn’t made (ie. if the US continues to coddle Bibi) then they may at least try to take matters into their own hands or NOT veto the UN resolution.

      I think I’m going to listen in on a state dept. background briefing via phone tonight on the Quartet meeting- 9pm. I’ll let you know if I do and what they say.

      Reply

  4. thainjacobs Says:

    Really good article on the Quartet by Tony Karon at Time:

    http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/07/10/memo-to-mideast-quartet-the-israeli-palestinian-peace-train-derailed-ages-ago/?xid=rss-topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+time%2Ftopstories+%28TIME%3A+Top+Stories%29

    It reiterates exactly what you said- the US just covers for Israel and he basically admits that it’s because of the Israel lobby. Also points out how Oslo is dead.

    The One State Solution, brought to you by the Israel Lobby! Congrats!

    Reply

    • Steve Says:

      Yup, Oslo is dead and here’s a good article from Mondoweiss breaking down the numbers about how many settlers would have to move, at what cost, etc. It’s just not possible:

      http://mondoweiss.net/2011/07/killing-off-a-dead-oslo.html

      What the author of that article fails to note though is under Oslo the United States was supposed to pay the cost of relocating the settlers. Stop and think about that for a minute- the US taxpayer may have to shell out the money for Israel to remove ILLEGAL settlements that the US didn’t want them to build in the first place.

      Of course, this is the US’ own fault- we could have stopped the settlements a long time ago by withholding $$ but of course, that would mean going up against the Lobby.

      How ironic that the “pro-Israel Lobby” has killed the dream of a Jewish and democratic state. Now they are going to have a undemocratic apartheid state with a growing Arab population.

      Of course, a binational, secular state with full equality for ALL the citizens would be ideal in such a circumstance, but we can’t have THAT! If everyone is equal then we aren’t the Chosen Ones. 😉

      Reply

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