Mideast Quartet Delegation Cancels Trip to Jerusalem, Ramallah

Senior Israeli official, Western diplomat say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had objected to visit's timing.


Representatives of the Mideast Quartet who were set to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah this week have canceled the trip. The delegation, representing the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, was meant to discuss an end to the unrest as well as trust-building measures between Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior Israeli official and a Western diplomat from one of the Quartet's members told Haaretz on Monday that the reason for the cancellation was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's objection to the visit's timing.

The Western diplomat, who asked not to be named, said that on Sunday evening, Netanyahu spoke with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is leading the Quartet's initiative. Netanyahu told Mogherini that at this time, and in light of the tense security situation, he believe the delegation's visit would be pointless. Israel was officially informed that the trip has been canceled on Monday afternoon. 

"The Israelis told us that this isn't a good time to talk about issues," the diplomat said. "They were probably also concerned that the Quartet representatives' visit would increase international pressure on Israel."

Instead of visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah, the representatives will visit a few countries in the region. They might travel to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in two weeks.  

The Quartet's foreign ministers decided to send the delegation in a meeting held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 30. The members of the Quartet announced at the time that the representatives will examine ways to deescalate the situation and to put together a series of trust-building steps that both Israelis and Palestinians would take.

Members of the delegation were expected to meet with National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy Isaac Molho, as well as senior Foreign Ministry officials. They were also expected to meet with senior officials in the Palestinian Authority.

Mogherini had spoken with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday. In the calls, the EU foreign policy chief "underlined the need to promote calm, encourage restraint and avoid actions which would fuel the tensions even further," according to a statement released after the conversations.

Mogherini further condemned "acts of terror against civilians, and stressed that any reaction should be proportionate."

She told both Netanyahu and Abbas that the only way to bring an end to the violence is to "quickly restart a credible political process."

"The immediate priority is for the parties to agree on substantial steps which would improve the situation on the ground and build a path back to final status negotiations," she said.