Middle East Quartet (archive)
Middle East Quartet (archive) Reuters

Representatives of the Middle East Quartet who were set to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah this week have canceled the trip at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Haaretz reported Monday.

The delegation, representing the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, was meant to discuss an end to the unrest as well as trust-building measures between Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior Israeli official and a Western diplomat from one of the Quartet's members told Haaretz on Monday that the reason for the cancellation was Netanyahu's objection to the visit's timing.

The Quartet was set up in Madrid in 2002 as part of efforts to find a comprehensive settlement to the conflict between Israel and the PA.

In 2011 the group suggested a timetable which it said would bring forth a peace agreement by the end of 2012, one of several initiatives proposed by the Quartet which have failed.

The group has been mostly silent over the past year as it let Secretary of State John Kerry try to broker a deal between the sides, an effort which ultimately failed when the PA torpedoed talks by requesting to join 15 international agencies.

But earlier this month, the Quartet announced it had decided to give new impetus to trying to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume peace talks, this time with the help of key Arab states.

The Western diplomat who spoke to Haaretz and who asked not to be named, said that on Sunday evening, Netanyahu spoke with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is leading the Quartet's initiative.

Netanyahu told Mogherini that at this time, and in light of the tense security situation, he believe the delegation's visit would be pointless. Israel was officially informed that the trip has been canceled on Monday afternoon, according to the report.

"The Israelis told us that this isn't a good time to talk about issues," the diplomat told the newspaper. "They were probably also concerned that the Quartet representatives' visit would increase international pressure on Israel."

Instead of visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah, the representatives will visit a few countries in the region. They might travel to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in two weeks. 

Members of the delegation that was to visit Israel were expected to meet with National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molho, as well as senior Foreign Ministry officials. They were also expected to meet with senior officials in the Palestinian Authority.

Mogherini had spoken with both Netanyahu and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday. In the calls, the EU foreign policy chief "underlined the need to promote calm, encourage restraint and avoid actions which would fuel the tensions even further," according to a statement released after the conversations.

Mogherini further condemned "acts of terror against civilians, and stressed that any reaction should be proportionate."

She told both Netanyahu and Abbas that the only way to bring an end to the violence is to "quickly restart a credible political process."