Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair headed a delegation that is holding separate meetings with Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials in what seems an impossible mission to bring the two sides together for direct talks for an agreement on establishing the PA as a country.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has virtually stated that Israel must agree in advance to his demands before sitting down for a formal agreement. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made no pre-conditions except for one –that Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which he refused to do.
Nevertheless, Blair is plunging into the dark abyss at the United Nations headquarters in an area of Jerusalem that Abbas wants as part of a Palestinian Authority country.
The Quartet has been as ineffective as the United States in moving the “diplomatic process" ahead. It issued a statement last month proposing the PA and Israel resume direct discussions in 30 days, a deadline that passed on Sunday.
Nabil Shaath, who has emerged as one of the harshest speaking senior aides to Abbas, told a PA radio station, “I do not expect anything and I cannot see that the Quartet, specifically the United States, has a clear vision.”
He said he simply will tell the Quarter delegate what he already has said – Israel must accept the temporary 1947 Armistice Lines, otherwise known as the 1967 or “Auschwitz” borders, as the basis for negotiations. He also demands a halt to all building for Jews in Judea and Samaria and PA-claimed parts of Jerusalem.
Abbas has rejected a suggestion from Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel freeze government building in those areas.
The chances of the PA backing down are nil. "This is our stance that has not changed and will never be changed," Shaath said.
Despite the no-compromise position, Blair is asking both sides to make suggestions on borders aand security. The Pal has already stated its proposal – all of the land restore to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967 and the removal of all Israeli military and personnel and civilians.
Israel, sticking with the original idea of negotiations, has not put forth a specific proposal, but it is a working assumption that the IDF would remain in sensitive areas, particularly the Jordan Valley, and major population centers –Gush Etzion, Beitar Illit, among others – will become under Israeli sovereignty.
Surrendering Jerusalem neighborhoods that the Abbas claims never has been seriously considered even by most serious left-wing leaders.
Meanwhile former U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell this week warned that violence will erupt if the stalemate continues.