Quartet Out Of Harmony
07/15/2011 - 16:00
Douglas Bloomfield

You know things are tough when a group of some of the world's most senior diplomats get together and can't even agree on a bland communiqué. That's what happened this week when the Middle East Quartet met over dinner at the State Department to talk about reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the dinner for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the group's Mideast envoy.

They're looking for a formula that will stop the Palestinians from unilaterally declaring statehood and going to the UN for recognition. But the price is too high, it seems. Palestinians are demanding Israel freeze settlements and accept 1967 borders as a reference point, and Israel is refusing both and demanding Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.

That latter item apparently was also a sticking point for Lavrov. Ha'aretz quoted a senior Israeli official – no Israelis or Palestinians attended the dinner – saying a major hang-up was the Russian's opposition to including endorsing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in any joint communiqué.

[T]he meeting was a flop," reported Laura Rozen, who writes Yahoo's The Envoy blog, as divisions – both substantively and politically -- over how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute only seem to be growing.

The Europeans had pushed for this meeting and a reluctant Clinton agreed to host it, sources tell us. The Obama administration has little enthusiasm for pushing the issue forward for substantive reasons (a lack of interest on the part of the Israelis and Palestinians) and political considerations (the 2012 elections).




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