Israel Formally Accepts Quartet Plan to Restart Talks with PA
The State of Israel on Sunday officially accepted a plan by the Quartet of peacekeeping nations to restart final status talks with the Palestinian Authority.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement issued Sunday that Israel “welcomes the Quartet's call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions, as called for by both President [Barack] Obama and by Prime Minister Netanyahu" in their respective speeches at the United Nations General Assembly.
The PMO statement added that even though Israel had reservations about the plan, “we will raise them at the appropriate time. We call upon the Palestinian Authority to do the same and to enter into direct negotiations without delay,” the statement said.
The Quartet, comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, has published a new timetable for direct negotiations between the two parties, urging both Israel and the PA to come to the table within four weeks. During this initial meeting, the two sides are expected to express their commitment to a timetable which will allegedly bring forth a peace agreement by the end of 2012.
The Quartet statement describing its proposal followed the speech given by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly in which he officially launched the entity's statehood bid.
The PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, has since continued to call on the Quartet to immediately intervene with Israel to halt all Jewish construction in the territories it demands for its hoped-for state, before it will consider a return to negotiations.
In a news release issued by the ministry on the eve of the Jewish New Year last week, the PA government declared “The Israeli authorities continually and arrogantly refuse to abide by the international resolutions and continue to defy the international community through its decision to build 1100 housing units in Jerusalem, bring the number of housing units to more than 1800 units, which were approved by the Israeli authorities in order to judaize Jerusalem and completely isolate it from the West Bank.”
The statement referred to a routine district planning committee decision to expand the number of housing units approved for the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. The plan will be subject to 60 days of public debate before reaching final approval from Jerusalem municipal authorities. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last week that he had no intention of interfering with or halting the project, nor would he start another building freeze to appease the PA. “We gave at the office,” he commented.
The PA meanwhile called for “actual actions, not only international condemnations, to deter” Israel's building activities. PA officials called on the Quartet “to insure an immediate cessation of settlement activities and protect the two-state solution in accordance with the international terms of reference.” In addition, the PA statement called on the members of the United Nations Security Council to vote in favor of the entity's statehood bid, as “it is a key to the success of the peace process and any future negotiations.”
The United States, one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, has already said from the outset that it will exercise its veto if the PA manages to garner the required nine votes to win passage of the resolution.