The Middle East Quartet's report on the impasse in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will be released on Wednesday, UN Chief Ban Ki-moon said during meetings in Jerusalem on Monday, Israeli officials told Haaretz.
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Last week it was reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making last-ditch efforts to soften the report, which is expected to harshly criticize Israeli policy in the West Bank.
Both senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats told Haaretz that a draft of the report has been completed and sent for review and approval to the foreign ministers of the Quartet’s members – the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.
The Quartet foreign ministers decided to draft the report at a meeting in Munich last February, spurred by the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank and the French peace initiative. A statement published after that meeting raised the possibility – for the first time – of cooperation between the Quartet and the UN Security Council. That sparked fears in Israel that the Quartet report was intended as a prelude to a more far-reaching move on the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the Security Council.
The report is expected to include two parts:
1. The first part will describe and analyze the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the impasse in the peace process, the escalating violence and the detrimental steps each side has taken. This section is expected to criticize the Palestinians for incitement and violence against Israel, as well as for the domestic political rift between Fatah and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority’s haplessness with regard to reconstructing Gaza following the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel.
Nevertheless, most of the criticism in this section is expected to be aimed at Israel. It will focus primarily on construction in the settlements and Israel’s policy in Area C – the part of the West Bank that was assigned to full Israeli civilian and security control under the Oslo Accords. Inter alia, the report is likely to criticize the demolition of Palestinian houses in Area C and other measures that make Palestinians’ lives there difficult. It is expected to say that Israel’s policy threatens the ability to realize a two-state solution.
2. The second, shorter part of the report will make recommendations for confidence-building measures that each side should take to improve the atmosphere and to preserve the possibility of resuming direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and implementing a two-state solution in the future. These recommendations are expected to deal with construction in the settlements, Israeli policy in Area C and Palestinian incitement, among other issues.
“The recommendations are the central and most important part of the report,” one Western diplomat said. “The recommendations will essentially be an expansion of the Quartet’s previous recommendations from September. The main message is expected to be that there are very negative trends with regard to the two-state solution, and these are the steps that must be taken to change direction. We believe the goal is positive, and it will be possible to use the report as a tool to make progress and do something useful to advance the two-state solution.”