Guest Post: From the Quartet Meeting to Olmert’s Washington Visit

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The Quartet New York meeting, including its commitment to creating a mechanism to re-start Palestinian assistance, could mark the re-emergence of this international foursome (US, EU, Russia, UN) as a force in Middle East peace. A multi-lateral approach, with US, EU and moderate Arab State’s partnership at its core, offers hope for kick-starting a new effort at progress on Israel-Palestine. The challenges ahead will revolve around stabilizing the situation in the PA, guaranteeing security, creating a credible option for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and leaving unilateralism behind. This is where US Administration thinking should be focused as the preparations for Israeli PM Olmert’s visit moves into high gear.
The Quartet re-committed themselves to “the principles of partnership and negotiation leading to a two state solution. . . [and] the importance of both parties avoiding unilateral measures which prejudice final status issues.” In addition, “the Quartet expressed its willingness to endorse a temporary international mechanism that is limited in scope and duration, operates with full transparency and accountability, and ensures direct delivery of assistance to the Palestinian people. . . The Quartet welcomed the offer of the European Union to develop and propose such a mechanism.”
This represents the first concrete, meaningful action item for a Quartet meeting to deliver perhaps since the publication of the Roadmap in spring 2003. The emergence of the Quartet as an active Contact Group on moving Israeli-Palestinian issues would potentially be an extremely positive development. The Quartet invited the Jordanian, Egyptian and Saudi Foreign Ministers for a dialogue — this is another encouraging sign as their involvement is a key tool in pursuing any Israeli-Palestinian negotiated agreement. On the ground, the need to address the humanitarian-economic situation and institutional collapse in the Palestinian areas is an extremely urgent one.
That will require US cooperation in the new funding mechanism to be established, especially in allowing banks to transfer funds without sanction. It also needs a solution for the transfer of tax monies collected by Israel that belong to the PA — the new mechanism, to be effective, must also be a channel for these monies. The initial Israeli response seems helpful.
So, the crisis in the PA areas and attendant instability and threat of chaos and violence is the immediate challenge. Deterioration in this regard may take both the unilateral withdrawal and negotiated options off the table. The next task for international, and especially US, efforts should be focused on how to create a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian process towards a permanent status agreement. For this to happen, Palestinian President Abu Mazen will need to concretize, explain and create a context for negotiations on the Palestinian side — how they would work, and how any outcome would be legitimized and implemented, especially in the context of the new Hamas-led government.
The Hamas policy is in need of a re-think, as I have argued in this Haaretz op-ed. A similar line is advocated by former Mossad Chief and Israel National Security Adviser Efraim Halevy, who calls on Israel to talk with its “deathly enemy.” On the Palestinian, and broader Arab and Muslim side, an opportunity to really test what happens when the Muslim Brotherhood are democratically elected and have to assume governance responsibilities is being lost.
It would be a mistake to foreclose the possible prospect of nationalist political Islam being moderated when in office. Efforts to forcibly remove Hamas from power would not only be a blow to democratization processes, but might also undermine nationalist political Islamist movements elsewhere that have chosen the democratic participation path as opposed to the Al-Qaedist post-nationalist Islamist movements revolutionary path (of bring down the capitalist and nation-state system).
Against the political participation of Hamas and other national Muslim Brothers Parties, the Al-Qaedist forces argued that democratic participation was ‘kufr’ (an abomination to Islam). If they can show that the Western call for democracy was all a game and that if Muslim forces won they would be isolated from the outside and removed from power, then the Al-Qaeda tendency will emerge stronger. Lebanese Daily Star editor Rami Khouri has written convincingly on this.
There is an opportunity today. The new Israeli Government has expressed its preference for negotiations over unilateralism in its Coalition Guidelines — even if many consider this to be disingenuous, it should be taken at face value and pursued energetically. Unilateralism’s flaws are increasingly exposed — not least that extremists are strengthened, security not improved, and a two-state solution perhaps indefinitely postponed. On the substance of a possible agreement, the Israeli position today is closer than ever to what is commonly considered to be acceptable parameters for a permanent status peace.
The precedent of settlement evacuation has been established and the ‘not an inch’ ideological right is weakened and in disarray. Polls consistently show a majority of the Israeli public supporting the parameters of Taba, Clinton, Geneva, Ayalon. Unlike in the past, the ‘walk the extra mile’ adage may actually apply today.
There is majority Palestinian public support for the same permanent status package, even in polling since the Hamas election victory. The formal negotiating partner, the PLO Chair, President Abbas, has practically endorsed these guidelines. Hamas itself seems to contain heterogeneous voices on the subject and Cabinet leaders have been careful not to rule out a negotiated solution, as well as indicating their acceptance of the Abbas authority to lead talks. The unilateralist plan does not meet the minimal Palestinian requirements for viability, sustainability and dignity.
For the US, a sincere effort to promote a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace would massively undermine its detractors in the region, boosting its capacity for alliance-building, leadership, and promotion of democratic values. It would be a mistake to relegate the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace to number 3 or even 5 priority in the region (after Iraq, Iran, and perhaps Afghanistan and Darfur), as the continued conflict has region-wide implications for all of the above, in addition to its impact on the “war on terror”.
So when Israeli PM Olmert, arrives in Washington in 10 days, how about this for a message:

Mr. Prime Minister, you have been courageous in explaining to your people the need for further withdrawal from the West Bank, and even in addressing Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem. At home you received a mandate for your courageous ideas and here in Washington your courage is appreciated and applauded. We have noted your preference for a negotiated peace agreement as best guaranteeing Israeli security.
We are committed in the coming months to making this negotiated agreement a possibility and reality. Walking the extra mile will bring great benefits to your country and we will work to ensure that those benefits are maximized. We will pursue this negotiation option in full coordination with you, Mr. Prime Minister, along with our Quartet partners, our allies in the region and of course your Palestinian interlocutor President Abbas.

Daniel Levy was an advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office, a member of the official Israeli negotiating team at the Oslo B and Taba talks and the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative.

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  11. Joe says:

    We don’t owe Palestine any favors. We don’t owe Israel any favors. We don’t owe either any money. We don’t owe either any air time .

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  12. sona says:

    US has been an abject failure in brokering a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is not entirely surprising given the US political zeitgeist of equating Judaism with Zionism and a penchant to smear all and sundry as anti-Semites who dare to raise a voice for Palestinian rights in the occupied territories despite the fact that Arabs are Semites too. Most recent victims were Professors Walt and Mearsheimer even though they never questioned Israel’s right to exist.
    There cannot be a a resolution of the Israel-Palestine issue unless US is removed as the principal broker. Yet this lies at the heart of US’ very serious quagmire with the middle east. Blindly cozying up to the Zionist agenda pursued by Likud and Sharon/Kadima unilateralism closes too many windows for US to pursue its national strategic interests, particularly in relation to oil resources of the region. Israel does not have a drop of the precious commodity but its neighbours do.
    The demonstration of military might in Iraq is a fiasco and an economic disaster for both Iraq and US. Flexing muscles over Iran has sent jitters translating into a depreciating US Dollar. That last trend will only continue along with interest rate hikes until US learns its pay back debt time.
    US can proscribe Hamas but it is no diplomacy. Hamas is prepared to recognise Israel within its 1967 borders. We should do well to remember that that IRA was sustained for a very long time with financial support it received from the USA, albeit through unofficial channels. It was, nevertheless, a terrorist outfit, eschewed in Eire itself.
    I dare say this comment will provoke some antagonistic comments. I still maintain we need to find accommodation with 1bn of humanity in US’ strategic national interests rather than continue on a clueless warpath.

    Reply

  13. Carroll says:

    Well I would agree that
    “The AIPAC issue is really just part of much larger issue:”
    ..because the total corruption of politics is the largest issue and where all influential evils like the AIPAC lobby comes from…and it infects both parties equally.

    Reply

  14. bloggerville says:

    I think everyone will agree that a sincere effort to promote a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace is the way to go.
    —————–
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  15. Pissed Off American says:

    Well, I would buy that whole spiel, except for the fact that Reid is at the top ten percent when it comes to money recieved from AIPAC…..
    Seems ALL of them are drinking from the same trough, and this right left crap is simply an instrument of division. Personally, I think a good part of Washington’s so called “partisanship” is a charade, and these mewling cowards such as Kerry or Reid represent the same interests and agendas that the “right” does. Whats worse, we are now being handed the same cowardly shills as presidential prospects. The whole town of Washington needs fumigation, and it doesn’t look like it is going to get it. We are going to end up with a so called “democrat” as a president in ’08, and he is going to IGNORE and fail to prosecute the CRIMES of this administration, justifying it by proclaiming that prosecuting Bush and his cohorts would “be damaging to our security and our nation”. And business will continue as it has now for decades, with an erosion of our rights, our ideals, our national pride, and our global standing. Rome is burning NOW, and these treasonous opportunists on BOTH sides are looting the coffers as fast as the flames are spreading, barely keeping ahead of the inferno.We are facing some TOUGH times, and they are right around the corner. This grand experiment is OVER.

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  16. Matthew says:

    The AIPAC issue is really just part of much larger issue: The Republican attack on the funding sources of the Democratic Party. And we know what they are: trial lawyers, labor unions, and American Jews. (Has anyone noticed a lack of lawyers at fundraisers? I don’t think so.) Notice how trial lawyers and labor unions have been attacked–and demonized. Now American Jews are being actively courted. To overcome the long progressive tradition of many American Jews, the new Republican Party, with its Evangelical End-Timers, wants to out-Zionist the Democratic Zionists! It may be shoddy foreign policy, but the Republicans’ real goal is to starve the Democratic Party of its funding sources, thereby making it less competitive. And we will see even more of it as the Mid-Terms approach.

    Reply

  17. Pissed Off American says:

    Olmert is coming here to see how much American BLOOD he has purchased through AIPAC’s bribery of our members of Congress………
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3249426,00.html

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  18. Carroll says:

    Dear Chris
    ….you don’t consider Jordon a moderate state or Egypt?
    comparing Jordon or Egypt to Israel ..they come out way more moderate than Israel.

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  19. Chris Brown says:

    “A multi-lateral approach, with US, EU and moderate Arab State’s partnership at its core, offers hope for kick-starting a new effort at progress on Israel-Palestine.”
    Will someone please tell me which are the “moderate Arab states”? Or how about someone telling me which is a moderate Middle Eastern state? Isreal? No. Saudi Arabia? No Jordon? No The UAE? No.
    Get real.

    Reply

  20. Matthew says:

    A multi-lateral approach is the only solution. The American approach–let’s starve them because they didn’t vote the right way–might be the biggest gift to Al Quaeda ever. (No. 2: When Paul Wolfowitz flew to Turkey to inform that country’s Parliament that they voted the wrong way because they didn’t want to let us use their airspace for our attack on Iraq war.) The problem with these proposals is that we always bring ourselves to the table. Even if you could convince our End-Timer president of the wisdom of this approach, it has to get through Congress. And they are considering another Tom Lantos legistlative horror, which would sanction Palestinians until they accept the Road Map without reservations, although Israel can add as many reservations as it likes. But, heck, someone has to the “honest broker,” right?

    Reply

  21. Carroll says:

    I have to agree with the above …..blah,blah,blah,blah.
    I no longer believe a word out of an Israeli mouth, left or right. We have heard this claptrap for decades and decades. While the Israelis and AIPAC continue right on their little “Greater Israel” agenda. They puff their little chest and proclaim their might while at the same time whinning their eternal poor victim of the world chant and working like worms in our own goverment to have the US ruin itself promoting Israeli interest.
    Here’s my very American position:
    Israel has 30 days to decamp and move back to their original 1948 UN granted borders or face a US Marine force invasion.
    AIPAC has 2 weeks to register as a foreign lobby or be shut down.
    US aid and loans..Not one dime. The US taxpayer financed Israel/US/congress/military industrial complex ponzi scheme is OVER.
    Any “American”-hyphen- Jewish Israel supporter groups or individual or “US” Israeli “Congressmen” who don’t like it can so signify by turning in their American passports and lining up at Dulles, National, Kennedy and LAX for deportation to their “true” homeland.
    Any remaining US citizens who don’t understand that America and Israel are two different countries, with different interest and are not “one and the same” will have to undergo I.Q. testing and be certified as mentally competent before they are allowed voting privilages.
    Anyone who agrees with all or any part of this can start doing their civic duty as a American citizen by getting on the phone and telling their congressmen and senators that they can work for America and America citizens or they can move to Israel and run for office there.
    I called Conyer’s aide on the Palestine bill in the judiciary committee yesterday to express my disgust at denying aid to Palestine because first, it is immoral, and second it is counter productive to turning Hamas from a violent force to a political force.
    I called Waxman today to ask how in the hell it is his job as a “US” representive or in the interest of the US for him to “insist” that Israel be taken off an offical US watch list for copying generic drugs. Does he get his paycheck from US taxpayers or from Israeli taxpayers? Was he swore into the US congress or the Israeli congress?
    I called Nadler’s office two weeks ago when he called the authors of the Israel Lobby paper, Mearshemier and Walt “anti-semitics” and asked who the hell he thought he was to use his office to slander individuals for questioning the foreign policy of their own country.
    I called Rep Smith office back when he publically stated on a Israel visit that the “US does not need to be impartial and supports Israel 100%” and asked how he thought that helped our boys fighting in Iraq right then or world opinion or Arab opinion of the US.
    I called Wexler’s office last year when he sent a letter to Bush demanding that the FBI be “investigated” for investigating AIPAC spying because the FBI is anti-semitic and asked his aide how investigating security concerns was anti-semitic and if he worked for AIPAC or America.
    I called Ackerman’s office when he demanded the “Egyptian goverment” stop it’s agrictural “conversation” program on palm plants because it caused shortages in palm fronds for Jewish celebrations and asked how another goverments’s conversation programs was the business of the US congress or goverment to interfer in.
    I am in the process of making up a letter to send to Reid, and cc’ing it to all other so called democratic leaders, along with a copy of my X’ed out Democratic voter registeration card to say that I am finished with them and this “Isrmerica” insanity. And along with my personal campaigning for campaign finance reform and lobbying reform, I am also campaigning for admending the constitution and re wording the definition of “subversion” and “treason” so they can all tried for treason and then strung up on Linlcon Mall.
    Congress is insane, they do not even know what country they are suppose to represent. And anyone who doesn’t get what is going on or believe it, can get themselves to Thomas or Govtrack and enter the term “Israel” and spend a few weeks reading all the crapola legistation and bills the House sponsors and passes related to Israel benefits, economic strongarming other countries in behalf in Israel, special grants, Israeli offices within the DHA for “joint” security, that have NOTHING to do with US interest and are in fact BAD for the US.
    Or you can just do nothing and watch America go down the tiolet…and then say ..well gee whiz…how did this happen?
    And BTW…if the US gives Israel the 10 billion that the JPost reported yesterday the PM will ask for in return for their next “withdrawal” in his meeting with Bush..while Israel is reporting a 1.7 billion budget “surplus’ and the US is 8.3 trillion in “debt” and blood doesn’t run in the streets of America over this..then we all deserve to live under our new “Uncle Israel” and do away with the word American entirely.

    Reply

  22. liesbeth says:

    “For this to happen, Palestinian President Abu Mazen will need to concretize, explain and create a context for negotiations on the Palestinian side — how they would work, and how any outcome would be legitimized and implemented, especially in the context of the new Hamas-led government.”
    This is the core of the problem. The Palestinians are directed into a postion from which there’s no direction to negotiate. Let’s swap a few words
    “For this to happen, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert will need to concretize, explain and create a context for negotiations on the Israeli side — how they would work, and how any outcome would be legitimized and implemented, especially in the context of the new Olmert-led government.”
    Why would the victims of occupation accept the the terms handed over by the Israeli General Custers; short term thinkers who believe a non-integrated Israel in the Middle East will be a all swell and dandy provided some gentile hyperpower will provide all the goodies until … yep until these same gentiles decide it’s enough.
    Last time I checked history, no Muslim has ever engaged in something so brutal as the holocaust.

    Reply

  23. Jerome Gaskins says:

    Here, read this:
    http://www.antiwar.com/ips/kamal.php?articleid=8971
    Keep Hamas in Power, Israeli Leader Demands
    by Baher Kamal
    “We need to warn against any attempt to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government,” says former Israeli minister Shlomo Ben-Ami.
    Ben-Ami, who served as minister for public security and later for foreign affairs, played a key negotiating role during the Middle East peace summit at Camp David in July 2000. Those talks were conducted between former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former chairman of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat, and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
    “We have the thought that when you discard supposedly an extremist option, what you get is a more moderate option. But you might get a more extremist option,” Ben-Ami told IPS in an interview following a meeting on the Middle East held in Madrid. “You may also have a civil war. See the Algerian example, when in 1991 the Islamic Salvation Front was elected and the army toppled it. This led to a civil war that still persists.”
    more at the link

    Reply

  24. erichwwk says:

    A mild and weak reply. Until the US stops supporting Israel to such a greater degree over Palestine, both financially and militarily (G & NG) , and through its veto power in the UN, there will be no incentive for Israel to reach a just and lasting settlement.
    Whatever the people may feel, it seems clear the leaders prefer wealth over peace, much as is the case w/leaders in the US.
    Might makes Right! (as S Ahmadi says w/ different words).

    Reply

  25. Marcia says:

    Perhaps tomorrow we will all hit the jackpot but until then actions speak louder than words.

    Reply

  26. baffled says:

    our ridiculously biased congress will have to be completely bypassed if any rapprochement between these two peoples is ever to commence. the likes of Lantos, Ros-Lehtinen, Saxton, Weiner, Engel etc. will stop at nothing to sabotage a just and fair agreement between the adversaries. additionally, no correspondent for any MSM organization here in the US would ever have the professional fortitude to pen an article such as this:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/hass05102006.html

    Reply

  27. chris_from_boca says:

    from ‘whatever it is i am against it’ blog:
    “In a spate of recent articles on the predictably lethal effects of the collective punishment of the Palestinians by the US and other Western nations, including the ending of medical aid (The Times: “How 14-Month-old Leukaemia Victim Is Suffering for Hamas”), I have yet to hear a Western politician justify the tactic of punishing dialysis patients as a way of pressuring a government – or see any sign that any of them were even asked, by journalists or anyone else, to do so, although Condi said Tuesday that “The Hamas-run Palestinian Authority government bears sole responsibility for the hardships facing the Palestinian people”. … There is some talk now about finding ways to funnel money into Palestine through NGOs, the World Bank, whatever, but shouldn’t they have thought about that before cutting off the aid? I’m also hearing conflicting things about the extent to which Israel is blocking medical and other supplies entering Palestine, especially Gaza.”
    http://whateveritisimagainstit.blogspot.com/2006/05/sole-responsibility.html

    Reply

  28. lalla says:

    In order for such an optomistic scenario to be implemented, the influence of rightwing elements of the Israeli Lobby on Capitol Hill/the WH must be curtailed and countered.
    Fortunetly, some progressive pro-Israel groups have been mounting a campaign on Congress in order to do just that. They are actively reaching out to staff and members to derail the shameful and despicably onerous HR 4681.

    Reply

  29. sahmadi says:

    Blah.Blah..Blahblah…Blah. The Quartet is a joke. Israel desiring peace is a joke.
    Israel continues building settlements. Israel continues building the true Wailing Wall, and annexing more Palestinian land. Isreal now declares that Palestinian government must be negotiable for upcoming border talks in a year or Israel will act unilaterally. HAHA. That was funny. Considering Israel is doing every thing from not transferring Palestinian’s money to closing borders to eliminating the gas supply, the offer is cruel joke.
    The beacon of justice and democracy we Americans just watch as the palestinian people are marginalized and starved. We offered them the jewel of democracy and the Palestinians pay us back by voting out the corrupt FATAH. How dare the Palestinians vote out our candidate!? Let them starve…no foreign aid for you. Democracy is a @itch.

    Reply

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