President Shimon Peres says the Quartet’s plan and deadline that expire this month is doomed and that the Palestinian Authority and Israel will return to direct talks.
The Quartet told the PA and Israel three months ago to put forth suggestions for two issues: boundaries for a new Palestinian Authority country and security for Israel, a request that is contrary to the concept of direct talks between the two sides. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas quickly responded to the Quarter initiative, but the Netanyahu government said its proposals should be presented in direct talks.
With less than a month remaining until the Quartet’s deadline expires, Jordan is scheduled to host Israeli and PA negotiators on Tuesday.
In an interview with the Arabic language daily Asharq Al-Awsat, President Peres suggested that the Quartet initiative scuttled the possibility of the return to direct talks, which he said eventually will happen.
“The International Quartet submitted its new proposals, and Tony Blair and U.S. officials arrived and offered to conduct direct meetings focusing on the issues of borders and security. They asked each party to put forward its proposals within three months…this is what halted our progress” for direct talks, the President said.
He said that all of his contacts with the Palestinian Authority have been conducted with the approval of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Asked if the “Quartet’s proposal is doomed to failure, and the negotiations will return to their previous track.” President Peres responded, “Yes, this is what I believe.”
He also said that the rapidly changing situation in the Middle East makes it difficult to put forward proposals for Israel’s security. “Since the Americans put forward their initiative regarding the security issue, new developments have occurred in the region,.” he explained. “There is a lack of security in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, the situation in Syria and Lebanon is unclear. Even in Egypt, the situation is obscure, but we must not fall victim to despair.
“I believe in direct negotiations. The International Quartet is not an alternative to that. Every party in the International Quartet has its own interests and causes. Take Russia, for example…it is standing with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is slaughtering his own people, although the situation in Syria is a source of concern for both Jordan and Lebanon. President al-Assad, who began his political life as an eye-doctor, is now demonstrating that he is a butcher, whilst our Lebanese ‘friend’ Hassan Nasrallah is serving Iran’s interests.”
On other issues, he predicted, "The Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to hijack the revolution will not succeed” because Egyptians realize that “switching MPs” will not solve Egypt’s problems.
President Peres also revealed that former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat once explained that he broke promises to Israel in order to prevent a civil war among Arabs.
“He would go back on things we had agreed on,” said the President. “He believed in the use of violence to exert pressure. He would make promises and then go back on his word. When I asked him about this, he answered that he did not want to cause a Palestinian civil war.”