Quartet Fails to Release Joint Statement While Palestinians Power On

Chief PLO Representative to the United States Maen Rashid Areikat says Palestinians not after ‘victory on paper,’ rather they hope UN recognition will assist them in putting pressure on Israel to reach a two-state solution.

One couldn’t help but wonder this week if in fact there were so many facilitators to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that they themselves need a mediator.

The State Department spokesperson denied that there is any “difference of goals” between the Quartet members, who work hard to convince the Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (3rd R) sits down to a working dinner with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (4th R), Quartet Representative and former prime minister of Britain Tony Blair (2Reuters

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who spoke on Tuesday night at the Brookings Institution, defined Monday’s Quartet meeting in Washington as “good and substantive,” but said it is still unclear as to whether the Palestinians will succeed in their bid to achieve UN recognition in September.

“The European Union has a strong united position,” said Ashton, “We need two states living side by side, 1967 borders with agreed [land] swaps, Jerusalem as a capital for both [sides], and the refugees issue needs to be resolved.”

“I don’t want to preempt September,” said Ashton, adding that at the end of the day there will be individual states who vote either for or against the UN resolution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that members of the Quartet took differing stances on the matter. "The fact that we didn't produce a statement doesn't mean we disagree and abandoned the effort”, he said. “Our experts continue discussing it."

But Quartet members did not produce a joint statement after Tuesday’s follow-up meeting either.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians continue powering on towards September.

“What happened with the Quartet didn’t bode well not because of the gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” said Maen Rashid Areikat, Chief PLO Representative to the United States. Areikat said the gaps the Quartet members are trying to close are supposed to be left to negotiations, and that “it’s clear the United Nations, European Union and Russia are on one side, and the United States is on other.”

Areikat said the Palestinians’ message to the UN is that the status quo will no longer be tolerated. “We are not after victories on paper,” he said.

Being a member of the United Nations, Areikat said, will allow the Palestinians to “enjoy certain privileges that will enable us to put pressure on Israel… Israelis will feel the change in the international attitude.”

Areikat said the goal in September is not to achieve a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, but to be admitted to the United Nations. “It’s not an effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel. Creating a viable state recognized by the international community is a legitimate goal of the Palestinian people; a state that will live in peace and security alongside Israel,” he said. “The two-state solution is still viable.”

Areikat called upon the United States to welcome an independent Palestinian state as it welcomed South Sudan. “South Sudan is country we wish all the best. But it doesn’t have attributes of sovereignty that Palestinians have.”

Areikat also commented on the recent Congress resolutions warning the Palestinian Authority that aid would be cut off if they maintain the reconciliation with Hamas and continue unilateral actions such as seeking UN recognition.

But the Palestinians continue rolling the ball. On July 16, the Arab Follow-Up Committee will meet in Cairo to assess the Quartet statement and decide upon their next move.