The international Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia on Middle East peace and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) seem set on an agenda that perceives September 2011 as an historical political watershed deadline. Among the partners to the Quartet -- sponsored Palestinian -- Israeli "peace process," practically deadlocked since the collapse of the US, Palestinian and Israeli trilateral summit in Camp David in 2000, only the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu seems adamant to set a completely different agenda that renders any endeavor by the Quartet to revive the process a non -- starter, thus dooming the September deadline beforehand as another missed opportunity for peace making.
Denying they are containment measures aimed at political survival to avert potential Palestinian simulation in the aftermath of the regime changes in Egypt and Tunisia, the PLO is bracing for what it declares as indeed "the" watershed deadline in September 2011 that would make or break its decision to resume as a partner to the "peace process." The PLO is reshuffling its negotiations department as well as the cabinet of the self-ruled Palestinian Authority (PA) and has called for presidential, legislative and local elections by next September to empower itself with electoral legitimacy ahead of that deadline, encouraged by what the Quartet perceives as a "really important moment of opportunity," in the words of the Quartet's representative the former UK prime minister Tony Blair, which is an "opportunity" created by the Arab popular uprisings that so far have swept to the dustbin of history the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, both considered for decades major pillars of the Middle East "peace process."
Blair's "moment of opportunity" (Sky News on Feb. 14) was voiced also the next day by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who told the London School of Economics that, "Time is a factor, and urgent progress in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement is necessary." On the same day while on a visit in Israel and the PA, the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, citing the "significant changes in Tunisia and of course in Egypt," said "there is an opportunity for us to try and engage better and more quickly on resolving the issue" of the peace process. On Feb. 12 the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, citing the "one of the good things that might come from the events in Egypt and Tunisia," joined the "peace opportunity" choir to urge that "it is vital now to take this (the peace process) forward" because "in a few years time a two -- state solution will be much, much more difficult to achieve." Citing the same "changes," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the annual dinner of the Jewish organizations (CRIF) in Paris on Feb. 9 that "it is urgent to revive direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians." Three days earlier, on Feb. 6, even the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, addressing the 11th annual Herzliya security conference and similarly citing the regional "dramatic events of the recent period" which make it "necessary for us to take the Israeli -- Palestinian conflict off the regional agenda," urged Netanyahu that it is a "must" Israel does "this as soon as possible." It was also noteworthy that the secretary-general of the NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, found it necessary to contradict the official Israeli statements that the recent change in Egypt and Tunisia proves that Arab -- Israeli conflict is NOT the source of instability in the Middle East. "The lack of a solution to the Israel - Palestinian conflict continues to undermine the stability of the region," he told the Herzliya security conference.
To "do this," it seems that all those who see in the collapse of the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt a "moment of opportunity" have set a timetable throughout the September deadline. In addition to the PLO's measures, the UN Secretary General, in a press conference on Feb. 8, reminded that the Quartet will meet at the ministerial level in mid -- March and decided at its latest meeting in Munich earlier this month "to step up its search for comprehensive Middle East peace," adding the Quartet "expects to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials separately in Brussels at the beginning of March." Meanwhile, Paris will host a new international donor conference in June. Ahead of her meeting in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the week, the EU's Ashton sounded affirmative on the Palestinian make -- it -- or -- break -- it September deadline, thus raising Palestinian expectations to the highest level possible without revealing whatever she might conceal of Israeli forthcoming to vindicate it. "It is a timeframe that everybody has signed up to," she said, and while admitting it would be "challenging," she added: "I think we have to try and reach it." In Munich, the Quartet's statement on Feb. 5 similarly reiterated its support for "concluding these (Palestinian -- Israeli) negotiations by September 2011," when the PLO negotiators hope to see international recognition of their aspired state come true.
This deadline was initially set by U.S. President Barak Obama when he, on last September 2, re-launched Palestinian -- Israeli "direct" talks declaring they should be concluded a year later and, in his speech delivered to the UN General Assembly later that month expressed his hope that, "when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations -- an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."
In spite of their bitter "disappointment," which was expressed on record by Abbas, with U.S. and European repeatedly broken past promises, PLO presidency and negotiators wishfully continue to make believe and insistently opt to being held hostage to renewed similar promises, hoping their "peace partners" would, by a miracle, commit to their words. Building on these "promises," the PLO mandated its Palestinian Authority's cabinet of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with a two -- year plan for building the institutions of a "state" that is scheduled to be completed by September.
However, Obama's re-launched "direct" talks were suspended three weeks later, collapsing on Obama's helplessness vis -- a -- vis Israel's challenge to his on record call for the extension of the suspension of the ongoing expansion of the Israeli illegal colonial settlements on the area designated for a Palestinian state. Accordingly there are no negotiations to be "concluded" by September.
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