Washington, Oct. 4 —The Mideast Quartet, which is trying to engineer a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, will meet by this weekend after Israel accepted its plan to return to negotiations immediately but the Palestinians refused.
A plan issued on Sept. 23 by the Quartet on the Middle East – the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia – calls for both sides to meet this month to formulate a platform for talks and reach an agreement by the end of 2012.
“We continue to meet with the Palestinian side and urge them to come back to the table without preconditions,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said during a briefing Monday (Oct. 3). “We continue to believe that the Quartet has put forward a good timetable, an appropriate roadmap for these parties to begin working directly together and that that is the best way to get down to brass tacks and try to get to a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week, “Israel welcomes the Quartet’s call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions. While Israel has some concerns, it will raise them at the appropriate time.” Netanyahu said the Palestinians should “enter into direct negotiations without delay.”
Netanyahu’s statements aren’t enough, a PA official said. Before even resuming negotiations, said Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel has to agree to return to the country’s pre-1967 lines and stop all building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu instituted a voluntary 10-month building moratorium last year, but Abbas agree to hold peace talks until that period had almost expired. The Palestinian leader then left the talks when Israel refused to extend the freeze.
The latest Quartet statement came the same day Abbas and Netanyahu addressed the U.N. General Assembly, during which Netanyahu called for the Palestinians to resume negotiations without preconditions for a two-state solution. Abbas devoted his speech to outlining a unilateral bid for full U.N. membership and Palestinian statehood, which would create a state without negotiations about critical issues such as borders, security, water and Palestinian refugees. The PA proposal is in the hands of a U.N. Security Council committee.
In the meantime, Israel is going forward with plans to build 1,100 homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, an area that Israel annexed after reuniting the city in the 1967 war. The area is “within a contiguous part of a growing city,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said last week.