[Published 15 July 2011]
The utter futility inherent in pursuing the two- state solution - the creation of a 22nd Arab State between Israel and Jordan - was brought home this week when the most powerful negotiating team ever assembled in history - the Quartet - was unable to come up with a jointly acceptable statement to persuade Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume direct negotiations.
The Quartet comprises America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
The two day meeting of the Quartet in Washington was attended by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and Quartet special envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair.
The player out of tune was apparently Sergev Lavrov,
He reportedly prevented the Quartet from issuing a demand that the PA acknowledge Israel as the Jewish State as the basis for negotiations in exchange for Israel’s acceptance of the 1949 Armistice lines. He also reportedly refused to refrain from raising the proposed PA statehood bid at the UN in September.
It is this kind of pussyfooting around that encourages the PA to maintain its rejectionist stance.
Israel is the Jewish State referred to in the United Nations 1947 Partition Plan which provided:
“Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948. The boundaries of the Arab State, the Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem shall be as described in Parts II and III below.”
The Soviet Union voted in favor of this resolution. Russia has already seen more than one million Russian Jews of Jewish origin emigrate from Russia to Israel in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Why Mr Lavrov should be reluctant to acknowledge Israel as the Jewish State in these circumstances seems very curious indeed.
Certainly the PA has railed against making any such concession. This has been one of the major stumbling blocks to resolving the conflict that firstly the Oslo Accords and then the Quartet-sponsored Reagan Roadmap were designed to end.
PA resistance to acknowledge the existence of a Jewish State is writ large in the Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization which contains the following racist and Jew-hating provisions:
“Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong. “ (Article 20)
“Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.” (Article 22)
It really is time the Quartet took a stance and told the unelected and unconstitutional PA President - Mahmoud Abbas - who also is Chairman of the PLO and head of its largest faction - Fatah - that maintaining these provisions in the PLO Charter pose insurmountable obstacles to peace.
The Quartet had the opportunity to do this in Washington this week and was simply not up to the task.
Tony Blair had explained what the Quartet hoped to achieve when he stated on 26 June:
“I actually think this is a moment where we need to be quite bold, take the initiative and try and set out a framework for revitalising the negotiation. And if you did that and it succeeded, by the way, you completely transform the situation.”
“What we’re working is to see whether it’s possible to get a framework of principles that could guide a negotiation. Because the problem at the moment is that the Palestinians particularly don’t want to go back into a negotiation with an Israeli government they frankly don’t really trust, unless they are assured that the negotiation is going to be steered in a way that produces something. So, the question is, and this is the relevance of President’s Obama’s speech and the various Quartet statements, the question is can we, as a – as a quartet, as an international community get an agreed situation as to – as to what’s the framework within which you then have a negotiation.”
Any such boldness and initiative disappeared down the drain this week.
Israel has already made it perfectly clear it was ready to sit down and negotiate with the PA without preconditions. The PA refuses to do so. That is its perfect right - but it must be made aware there is a price to pay.
The quickest way to get both parties to negotiate is to let the PA know in no uncertain terms that the failure to negotiate unconditionally and immediately will result in the Quartet walking away and leaving the parties to their own devices.
Seven years of failed diplomacy by the Quartet has to come to an end at some time.
The Roadmap is negotiations based. By failing to get Israel and the PA to resume those negotiations - the two-state solution, Oslo, the Roadmap and the Quartet will continue to founder to their inevitable denouement should the PA unilaterally approach the UN in September.
Only firm and decisive action by the Quartet can have any chance of stopping this happening.
Given its poor performance this week the Quartet has not done its prestige or influence any good. It has only confirmed itself as being out of tune and out of time.