Netanyahu's office denies cooperation with Quartet report

PMO denies Israel agreed to cooperate with the process of compiling a report on the freeze in the peace process.
By Ben Ariel
First Publish: 2/14/2016, 3:21 AM

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini with Prime Minister Netanyahu
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini with Prime Minister Netanyahu
Amit Shabi/POOL/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office denied on Saturday night that Israel had agreed to cooperate with the process of compiling a European Union report on the freeze in the peace process, Haaretz reported.

Previously, EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini had said both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas agreed to cooperate with the report, which was agreed upon by the foreign ministers of the Quartet at a meeting in Munich on Friday.

"We have decided to immediately work together on a report, which will include recommendations for relaunching the two-state perspective," Mogherini was quoted as having written on her blog over the weekend.

"We will do this in coordination with the UN Security Council and with the main regional actors: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia – on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative," she added.

Mogherini, who spoke with both Netanyahu and Abbas on Friday, said the report will be compiled in coordination with the two sides and stressed that both leaders had "assured to me their willingness to engage in this new process."

But sources in the Prime Minister's Office denied that Netanyahu has agreed to cooperate with the compiling of the report.

"Mogherini did not speak with the prime minister yesterday about the Quartet report and Netanyahu hasn't agreed to it," they told Haaretz.

Despite Mogherini's efforts to portray the report as a new diplomatic initiative, Western diplomats who participated in the half-hour meeting of the Quartet were less enthusiastic, the newspaper reported.

The diplomats said the announcement of the report was mainly intended to create a new mechanism that will keep control over international efforts regarding the Israel-Palestinian issue firmly in the hands of Quartet members and prevent other initiatives, such as that of France to convene an international peace conference.

The report is "not a new peace initiative," said a Western diplomat who asked to remain anonymous. "It’s a way to keep the Quartet front and center and to control the process. It is a tool we can use in showing the Quartet is doing something and to push back on some of the initiative that we don’t like."

The Quartet - comprised of the United States, Russia, EU and UN - was set up in 2002 to promote the Israel-PA peace process but all of its efforts to coerce the sides back to the negotiating table have thus far failed.

The group then stepped aside and allowed Secretary of State John Kerry to lead a peace initiative, which collapsed in April 2014 when the PA breached the conditions of the talks. In recent months the Quartet has attempted to resume the stalled talks, but several months ago cancelled a trip to the region at Netanyahu’s request.

The diplomat who spoke to Haaretz said the planned report is expected to be relatively short. It will be compiled by envoys of the Quartet and it will be submitted to the foreign ministers, who will decide if and how to use it.

It is intended to be an extended version of the different announcements made by the Quartet over the past year, dealing with trends on the ground that endanger the chances of implementing a two-state solution and proposing steps that both sides should take in order to stabilize the situation and emerge from the freeze, according to Haaretz.