THE MIDDLE EAST QUARTET:
A PROGRESS REPORT
The humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) continues (see ‘The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion’).1 Its population of 3.7 million people, 52 per cent of whom are children, struggle for their basic needs.2 Palestinian women, children, and men are increasingly dependent on aid as their livelihoods are destroyed. The only sustainable solution to the crisis is a comprehensive peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians based on international law. As humanitarian and development and human rights organisations, we believe that immediate steps can and must be taken to relieve suffering, as well as to ensure that a peace agreement is eventually reached.
As this report demonstrates, the lack of progress on key goals calls the Quartet’s current approach into question. In its Berlin statement, the Quartet expressed the “urgent need for more visible progress on the ground in order to build confidence and support progress in the negotiations launched in Annapolis”. This “visible progress” has not materialised. Analysis of the reality on the ground demonstrates that in five of the ten areas in which the Quartet has laid down clear recommendations, there has been either no progress or an actual deterioration in the situation. Clearly, a new approach is warranted. Moreover, the Quartet’s capacity to encourage positive developments has been weakest in the three areas where progress is now most urgent: settlements, lifting obstacles to movement and access, and bringing an end to the blockade of Gaza.
The Middle East Quartet, comprising Russia, USA, EU, and UN, identified 2008 as a crucial year for the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) and the period in which to realise agreements made at the Annapolis Conference on 22 November 2007.3 Quartet members committed to assisting parties to meet their specific obligations and to promoting a just, comprehensive, and lastingsettlement of the conflict in the Middle East.4 The deadline for an agreement by the end of 2008 is now looming and seems unlikely to be met. Indeed, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, stated: ‘so far there has been no achievement in the negotiations… I cannot say that there has been an agreement on a single issue. The gap between the sides is very large.”5
The Quartet’s meeting in New York comes at a critical moment for the Quartet to demonstrate that it can play an effective role in bringing peace to the Middle East.
This report outlines the Quartet’s own recommendations across six areas that it considered to be of vital importance for the broader peace process. It assesses the impact that limited progress has had on the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis. The Quartet’s Berlin statement provides a clear picture of the progress needed and, as the most recent declaration of the Quartet, will be used as a basis for this report.6 The statement, like this report, focuses on settlements, access and movement, Gaza, Palestinian security sector reform, donor pledges, and the revival of private sector activity in the oPt.
The Quartet has rightly emphasised that progress in key areas is the only way to prevent further deterioration in the everyday lives of Palestinians and Israelis and in the overall political process itself. The Quartet’s meeting in New York provides an opportunity to re-group, recommit, and decide on additional steps that can be taken to ensure that parties comply with their obligations under the roadmap and international law.
This report provides recommendations to Quartet members on how best to respond to ensure urgently needed progress. Unless there is a swift and dramatic improvement, it will be necessary to question what the future is for the Middle East Quartet.
Settlements: Despite efforts by Quartet members to signal strong opposition to continued settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, there has been a marked acceleration in construction, and no serious attempts by the Israeli authorities to dismantle outposts. Settlements, outposts, and the infrastructure that serves them, illegal in international law, devastate the Palestinian economy and the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. While the Quartet can be commended for raising the issue of settlements and outposts, there has been a marked failure to hold the Israeli authorities to their obligations under the roadmap and international law. This highlights the urgent need to go beyond rhetoric and adopt concrete measures to ensure that Israeli authorities comply with their obligations under international law.
Access and Movement: The Quartet has failed in its efforts to secure the removal of checkpoints and other obstacles to access and movement for people and goods that would enable Palestinians to see a tangible improvement in their daily lives. There is no ‘new reality’ in the West Bank; the economy continues to stagnate, and the blockade of Gaza continues. The failure of the Quartet in this area will lead to further impoverishment and economic decline. It may also constitute a fatal threat to the broader peace process.
Gaza: Despite violations on both sides, the agreement on cessation of violence endures and there have been marked improvements in security for Israelis and Gazans alike.7 However, normal civilian life in Gaza has not resumed. The Quartet has been unable to end Gaza’s isolation and facilitate adequate flows of humanitarian and commercial goods (consistent with the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA)).
There have been increased supplies of fuel to Gaza, but these supplies are not yet steady or sufficient. Despite their efforts, the Quartet has failed to prompt the immediate resumption of stalled UN and other donor projects. Overall, progress in Gaza falls far short of the Quartet’s own stated recommendations. Despite its recognition of the urgency of the situation, the actions taken by the Quartet have been insufficient to kick-start meaningful changes on the ground.
Comprehensive Palestinian Security Sector Reform: The introduction of an EU-trained Palestinian police force across the West Bank is reported to be beginning to deliver tangible and much-needed improvements in the stability of life across the West Bank. Nonetheless, concerns among Palestinian civilians about their personal security are said to remain. The focus on the rule of law for Palestinians, while welcome, has paid inadequate attention to human rights in the reform process.
Donor Pledges: The Quartet Representative has been successful in securing substantial funding pledges. This impressive aptitude for fundraising has not yet led to the prompt delivery of projects, nor improved the lives of Palestinian women, children, and men for the better. The Quartet has not ensured that all donors make good on their pledges, in large part because the absence of demonstrable progress and real change in key areas – particularly settlements, access and movement, and Palestinian reconciliation – has made greater financial assistance ineffective. By adopting a twin-track approach, the Quartet has committed itself to achieving success in both promoting removal of obstacles to Palestinian economic development and increasing investment in Palestinian growth. Failure on one track, particularly the first, seriously undermines prospects for the other.
Private Sector Progress: The Quartet Representative has had isolated successes in implementing a small number of the agreed projects aimed at boosting the private sector. Most notable are his efforts to enable the allocation of frequencies to the second Palestinian mobile telephone operator in the oPt. However, a holistic approach to private sector development is required. There has been almost no progress in alleviating obstacles to access and movement needed to stimulate private sector activity and invigorate the Palestinian economy. Without this, the Quartet Representative will continue to be frustrated in his efforts to improve the daily lives of Palestinians while de-development of the Palestinian economy will continue to increase.
1 Available at www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/downloads/oxfam_gaza_lowres.pdf.
3 See Quartet Statements of 24 June 2008, 2 May 2008, and 17 December 2007 at www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/jun/106215.htm, www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/may/104319.htm, and www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/dec/97671.htm.
4 See Quartet Statement at Annapolis Conference on 27 November 2008 at www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/nov/95667.htm and President Bush, ‘Joint Understanding read by President Bush at the Annapolis Conference’ 27 November2007 and speech at www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rm/2007/95695.htm.
5 Mahmoud Abbas quoted in Haaretz, Sunday 14 September 2008 at www.haaretz.com.
6 See Quartet Statements of 24 June 2008, 2 May 2008, and 17 December 2007 at www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/jun/106215.htm, www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/may/104319.htm, and www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/dec/97671.htm.
7 The terminology ‘cessation of violence’ is used in this report as the generally accepted wording of the agreement by the UN.
Document Type: Report
Document Sources: CARE, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), Christian Aid, DanChurchAid, Diakonia, European Union (EU), Lancet (The), Médecins du Monde, Oxfam, Quartet, Save the Children, Secretary-General, World Vision International
Country: Russian Federation, United States of America
Subject: Access and movement, Economic issues, Gaza Strip, Humanitarian relief, Peace process, Quartet, Security issues, Settlements
Publication Date: 25/09/2008