Palestinian politicians and analysts were divided in their understanding and evaluation of last week’s Quartet failure to agree on a statement promoting the resumption of a Palestinian-Israeli political process. Some Palestinians expressed disappointment and frustration because disagreements within the Quartet that prevented consensus indicate that the international community is not going to be able to help Palestinians and Israelis move forward towards ending the occupation and realizing peace.
Other Palestinians reached positive conclusions from the same failure, because the breakdown was rooted in European Union and Russian refusal to accept proposed American positions that were biased towards Israel and inconsistent with international law and the agreed-upon terms of reference of the peace process. The Americans seem to have wanted to introduce language that would recognize the so-called "Jewish" character of Israel (despite its 20 percent Arab minority) and accept Israeli alterations in the landscape of the occupied territories, i.e., settlements, which are illegal according to international law. This led to a disagreement.
Palestinian politicians and analysts who were happy with the resulting outcome (or lack thereof) would argue that on previous occasions, these disagreements ended with the Americans imposing their biased view on the other members of the Quartet. The EU seems to be moving–although slowly and cautiously–from being an observer in the peace process to being a player in it. That started with the declaration of the EU foreign minister’s council in December 2009 (reaffirmed in December 2010), which stipulated for the first time a European Middle East policy that was balanced in addressing the legitimate concerns of both Palestinians and Israelis, and consistent with international legality.
In light of such developments, Palestinians, Arabs and Israel’s peace camp must further encourage the EU and the individual European states to take a more active role in the international community’s efforts, both in the Quartet and at the United Nations. This is the route to effective international efforts to help the parties come to a resolution.
The growing European role is even more urgent and vital in light of the apparent conclusion of the right-wing Israeli prime minister and his government that internal American politics and elections have more leverage on US President Barack Obama than Obama has over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel. The combination of Netanyahu, who is catering to his growing right-wing for election purposes, and Obama, who is constrained by impending presidential elections, mean that the American monopoly on the mediation of the peace process has almost zero chance of moving things forward.
For these reasons, it has become urgent for Palestinians to call at the United Nations for the international community to take a collective role and more direct and effective intervention in helping to end the occupation and realize the international vision of peace, as embodied in the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders.