Middle-East Quartet Wants Israel To Freeze Settlements

The Middle-East Quartet, which is composed of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, was meeting in Moscow on Friday. The Quartet is urging Palestinians and Israelis to resume peace negotiations and come with a “settlement within 24 months”. However, will  the US put some real pressure on the Netanyahu administration is the real question here.

The Quartet called on Israel to freeze the construction of Jewish settlements in occupied territories and dismantle the settlements built since 2001. The Quartet also condemned Thursday’s rocket attack coming from the Gaza strip which triggered Israeli bombings overnight. Israeli jets bombed six targets in Gaza as a retaliation against the rocket attack which killed a Thai worker on a Kibbutz on Thursday. Israeli authorities claims the target were “terror sites”, including two tunnels and what Israelis claim were “weapons manufacturing buildings”. Today, Israeli forces are out in large numbers in East-Jerusalem in the expectation of more Palestinian protests.

In Moscow, after the Quartet meeting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made the following statement, which was welcomed by the Palestinian authorities.

Pro-Palestinian Protest in Jaffa/03/17/2010 Photo by Keren Manor for ActiveStills.org

“Israel must end the occupation which began in 1967. It must result in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. Israel must freeze settlements and end demolitions and evictions in East-Jerusalem. Unilateral actions taken by Israel will not be recognized by the international community,” said Ban Ki-moon.

The Americans have, for once, added their voice to the condemnation towards Israel’s settlement policy, but there is still no indication, on the part of the Obama administration, of consequences if Israel doesn’t give in and buckle under the Quartet pressure.

Despite the fact that Israel’s announcement of settlements plans in East-Jerusalem was made during a visit of US VP Joe Biden and created tensions for a few days between Washington and Jerusalem; it seems now, at least according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the “special relationship” between the US and Israel has not being undermined at all. In Moscow, Clinton while backing the settlement freeze call from the other Middle-East Quartet members reiterated that “Israel and the US have a strong and enduring relationship”.

AIPAC /2009 conference photo by Dana Goldstein

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be in Washington next week. Netanyahu will give a speech to the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to drum up support for his policies. AIPAC has been working diligently and overtime to make sure that the so called “special relationship” will not really be put into question  in Washington by anyone in power. In its effort to defuse last week tensions between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration, AIPAC has compiled a list of statements and letters from US Senators and members of the House of Representative for “reaffirming the US-Israel relationship”.

Photograph by Dana Goldstein/ Protest in front of AIPAC in 2009

Despite the efforts of organizations such as  Jewish Voice For Peace (see photo above) and the gains of  J Street, the other American Jewish lobby group which asserts that the American Jewish community can be pro-Israel and also pro-peace and in favor of a viable Palestinian state, AIPAC remains the key player as far as influence on American politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, and American media.

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