US State Dept. in Washington
US State Dept. in WashingtonIsrael news photo: US State Dept.

Representatives from the nations usually most involved in trying to keep the Middle East from periodically blowing up plan to meet next week in Washington D.C.

The meeting of the Quartet of peacekeeping nations – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – is set for July 11. 

On the “latest crisis” agenda is the bid by the Palestinian Authority to obtain recognition at the United Nations as a new independent country. Although the PA plans to bring its request to the United Nations for a vote on September 20, the plan itself was hatched at least two years ago, if not earlier. PA officials were sounding out international leaders on the issue as early as 2009, in fact.

The PA plans to declare the boundaries of its country along the 1949 Armistice lines, and will claim all lands restored to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, including territories in Judea and Samaria, as well as nearly half of Israel's capital, Jerusalem. Within the areas of Jerusalem claimed by the PA are located the holiest sites in Judaism – the Western Wall and the adjoining Temple Mount, upon which is presently built the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Top leaders wrestling with how to address the issue include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The U.S. has expressed the view that it would be counterproductive to formally recognize the Palestinian Authority as a country in any unilateral manner, and has said it would veto any move to do so.

Germany has said the same, agreeing with Israel that progress in establishing a PA state can only be made through bilateral negotiations and a mutually arrived at final status agreement.

Meanwhile, a high-level PA delegation to Washington on Wednesday is expected to include Fatah leader and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with top PLO representative and former chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. U.S. Near East envoy David Hale will meet with Abbas, Erekat and Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudeina to discuss hoped-for plans for renewed talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The PA sent a list of four preconditions to the Quartet of peacekeeping nations (the U.S., Russia, the EU and the U.N.) last month, insisting that it would not agree to renew negotiations unless Israel and the European Union agreed to meet every one of its demands.