CMEP Bulletin: Diplomatic Disarray Obscures Progress on Peace
Quartet Plays Flat
The Middle East Quartet (U.S., EU, UN, and Russia) made no discernable progress in restarting direct negotiations when the foreign ministers met in Washington, DC on July 11. The group did not issue a public statement which could have described a path forward to breach the diplomatic impasse. This leaves diplomacy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in disarray, with few prospects for forward movement prior to confrontations expected at the United Nations in September.
A western diplomat told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the goal of the meeting, “was to give each side something that was important to them…The Palestinians were supposed to get 1967 borders with land swaps and the Israelis wanted to receive in return the recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland, but there was no agreement on this matter.”
Reports say that both Israelis and Palestinians raised objections to the proposals put forward. At the meeting, the Russian representative apparently defended the Palestinian view that they could not agree now to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. According to CMEP’s analysis, doing so could well compromise future negotiations on final status issues including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and the status of Jerusalem. It would also leave open the status and rights of the 1.5 million Israeli citizens (20 percent of Israel’s population) who are not Jewish, including some 150,000 Palestinian Christian citizens of Israel.
In the run up to the meeting, reports indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government feared a last minute “surprise” in the Quartet’s statement. It is likely that the prime minister wants to avoid external pressures to restart negotiations before he believes he is in the best possible position. He’s utilizing several tactics to improve that position including seeking recognition of Israel as a Jewish state which would strengthen his hand on refugees, and asking for an explicit agreement by the Obama Administration that Israel can incorporate West Bank settlements into Israel which would strengthen his bargaining position on borders and land.
Netanyahu and eight senior Israeli cabinet members met for ten hours on Sunday July 10, presumably discussing strategy for dealing with the Quartet.
The Europeans led the call for this meeting reflecting a strong desire to avoid a showdown at the UN. EU member countries have also gone further than the United States in proposing specific parameters they believe necessary to get the parties to return to negotiations. At the UN Security Council in February, the UK, France, and Germany called for an agreement based on the 1967 lines with “equivalent land swaps as may be agreed between the parties” and for Jerusalem to be “the future capital of both states.”
The United States has never gone this far, calling only for mutual agreement on land swaps and a negotiated mutual agreement on Jerusalem.
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