Blair meets PM, Fayyad in effort to engage sides (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 04/02/12)
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Quartet envoy Tony Blair met separately Sunday with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in an effort to
keep the sides engaged and the situation stable.
Blair’s visit comes in advance of a scheduled meeting of the Quartet
in Washington on April 11. On Monday he will hold meetings in Jordan
and on Tuesday, US Middle East envoy David Hale will follow Blair to
Israel and the Palestinian territories.
An Israeli official said the country wanted to see a resumption of
diplomatic talks with the Palestinians, and that there
was “diplomatic work going on behind the scenes” to get them
The official characterized Blair as a “relevant interlocutor” who has
been “in and out” of the Prime Minister’s Office repeatedly in recent
Throughout January, Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho met chief
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat five times for low-level
preparatory talks in Jordan. The last round was held on January 25,
and the Palestinians said they would not resume until Israel stopped
settlement construction, agreed that negotiations would begin to use
the pre-1967 lines as the baseline and consented to the release of
several Fatah prisoners.
In late January and early February Blair was involved in intensive
talks with Netanyahu on creating a package of economic incentives to
keep the Palestinians in the talks.
The issues discussed at the time were primarily economic in nature,
such as giving the Palestinians greater access to Area C – the area
comprising 62 percent of the West Bank that is under Israeli control –
to develop their economy.
Those efforts seemed to founder, however, when PA President Mahmoud
Abbas signed an agreement with Hamas in Doha in early February.
Israel took a “wait and see” attitude regarding those talks, not
breaking off contact with the Palestinian Authority because of a
sense that the talks would not succeed.
In recent weeks, Israeli anger at the PA centered not on any strides
Fatah made toward reconciling with Hamas, but rather with moves the
PA initiated at the UN.
One such move was the recent decision by the UN Human Rights Council
to appoint a fact-finding mission to study the impact of the
settlements on Palestinian human rights.
This move was fiercely denounced by Israel, with Foreign Minister
Avigdor Liberman calling it “diplomatic terror,” and the Foreign
Ministry saying the Palestinians needed to “understand that they
cannot have it both ways – they cannot enjoy cooperation with Israel
and at the same time initiate political clashes in international
In private conversations Liberman was quoted as saying that the
current diplomatic process with the Palestinians had come to an end,
and there was a need to completely reassess the situation.
At the same time, there has been a great deal of discussion in recent
weeks about a letter Abbas planned to deliver to Netanyahu and the
Quartet outlining the Palestinians’ conditions for resuming the
Palestinian officials said last month that the letter would hold
Israel responsible for the failure of the diplomatic process because
of its insistence on settlement construction and refusal to recognize
the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
Israeli officials denied firsthand knowledge of any such a letter,
saying that merely restating previous Palestinian preconditions would
Meanwhile, the Quartet principles – US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy
chief Catherine Ashton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – are
scheduled to meet in Washington to discuss ways to move the
diplomatic process forward.
The Quartet last had an informal conversation on the sidelines of a
UN meeting that took place during last month’s spate of rocket
attacks in the South, but did not issue any significant policy
statement at that time.
In September 2011 the Quartet met at the UN and – calling for an
Israeli-PA accord by the end of 2012 – issued guidelines for renewing
negotiations. Those guidelines have so far led nowhere. (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 04/02/12)
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