Quartet's Hypocrisy And Failure
In Occupied Palestine
By Stephen Lendman
The Middle East Quartet includes the US, EU, Russia and the UN. It was formed in 2002 to seek "comprehensive security reform," mediate the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process," address Occupied Palestine's deepening humanitarian crisis, among other stated objectives.
On September 25, 21 aid and human rights organizations (called The Group below) issued a damning report on the Quartet's performance. Well before the current Gaza slaughter but with the Territory under siege, it cited:
-- a continuing humanitarian crisis among people struggling to meet their basic needs;
-- increasingly dependent on aid as their livelihoods are destroyed; and stressed that
-- the "only sustainable solution to the crisis is a comprehensive peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians based on international law."
It urged immediate steps be taken to relieve suffering; resolve intractable issues; achieve an equitable peace agreement; improve Palestinians' lives; and ensure they're treated equitably and justly.
It cited "the lack of progress on key (Quartet) goals," and the hypocrisy of its June 24, 2008 Berlin statement on the "urgent need for more visible progress on the ground in order to build confidence and support progress in the negotiations launched in Annapolis." It said no "visible progress" materialized and, in fact, things have deteriorated: the Gaza siege; settlement expansions; free movement and access restrictions; an an absence of meaningful peace efforts - and now genocidal slaughter in Gaza.
The Quartet identified 2008 as a crucial year to meet specific goals and obligations. So far they're unfulfilled with no prospect they will be in the new year. It prompted The Group's critical report with recommendations going forward for "swift" and "dramatic" action so far not undertaken. Otherwise "it will be necessary to question what the future is for the Middle East Quartet."
Middle East Online contributor Rami Khouri said "Let the Quartet Die (for) provid(ing) cover for Israeli colonialism and its American guardians." Instead of being an "impartial and decisive instrument of peace-making," it served as a "fig leaf designed to hide American dominance of a diplomatic process" primarily to serve Israeli interests. It's been a talking shop with no teeth and acted against, not for, Palestinian rights. It was highlighted by its failure:
-- to recognize Hamas' democratic election;
-- not demand that Israel respect international law;
-- halt its illegal settlement expansions;
-- refrain from using excessive force;
-- allow free movement and access; and
-- end its illegal occupation.
Khouri called the Quartet "a dishonest institution" and its special envoy Tony Blair "the Diplomatic Olympics Gold Medal Winner for Political Fraudulence." It should announce that it "failed (and must) withdraw immediately," end its charade, and prevent any more damage than it's already done.
Other Quartet critics voice similar sentiments. Among them John Dugard, the UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on Palestine. He accused the Quartet of being "heavily influenced" by the US. It "does itself little good by remaining" one of its members. America has done nothing to protect Palestinian civilians. It fails to address Israel's violations of international human rights law, and it "should be playing the role of the mediator," not siding with Fatah over Hamas.
Former UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Quartet envoy Alvaro de Soto was even harsher in his End of Mission Report, shortly before he stepped down. At first it was confidential, but it's now available online, and it's damning.
He said he was "encouraged to be candid" and he was. That Quartet (and UN) policy failed because it one-sidedly supports US and Israeli interests. It undermines a legitimate peace process and any hope for an independent Palestinian state. He urged the Secretary-General to leave it and said history will hold him accountable.
He condemned the Quartet for not recognizing the Hamas government and said it was "transformed from a negotiation-promoting foursome guided by a common document (the Road Map) into a body that was all-but imposing sanctions on a freely elected government of a people under occupation as well as setting unattainable preconditions for dialogue."
He called the consequences of the Quartet position "devastating:"
-- creating intolerable conditions on the ground;
-- achieving "precisely the opposite effect" of its mandate by allowing Israel's oppressive occupation;
-- letting hundreds of civilians (to be killed) in sustained heavy incursions and (destroyed) infrastructure, some of it wanton such as the surgical strikes on (Gaza's) only power plant."
America dominates the Quartet. It, in turn, "take(s) all pressure off Israel (and) focus(es only) on the failings of Hamas." After two years as Quartet envoy, De Soto concluded that it failed as a diplomatic instrument. "As a practical matter, the Quartet is pretty much a group of friends of the US - and the US doesn't feel the need to consult closely with (it) except when it suits it."
The Group's Assessment of Quartet Progress
The Group includes organizations like Save the Children, Care, Oxfam International, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, United Civilians for Peace, Christian Aid, World Vision and Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFAD). It structured its report by issues.
The Quartet failed to halt settlement expansions. Instead, Israel accelerated construction, including on supportive infrastructure. They're illegal under international law and devastate the Palestinian economy and daily life of the people. Quartet efforts showed "a marked failure to hold the Israeli authorities to their obligations....This highlights the urgent need (to) adopt concrete measures" and hold Israel accountable. So far no efforts have been made to do it.
Immediately after it's Berlin statement, Israel announced new settlement building or tendering in Neve Yaacov, Beitar Illit, Har Homa, Pisgat Ze'ev, Ariel and Maskiot. It's for 2550 homes on the eve of Secretary Rice's regional visit at the time. The Quartet reacted tepidly despite Israel's multiple and repeated international law violations:
-- of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stating: "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
-- of Fourth Geneva's Article 27, paragraph 1, part 3 stating: "protected persons (under occupation) are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs."
-- of Article 27, paragraph 3, part 3 stating: "without prejudice to the provisions relating to their state of health, age and sex, all protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinctions based in particular, on race, religion or political opinion."
-- of the International Court of Justice's Advisory Opinion stating: "all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the (separation) wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction." All state parties to Fourth Geneva and the UN Charter are so obligated as well as "required....to end the illegal (settlement) situation resulting from the (wall's) construction...."
They also must enforce UN Security Council Resolution 446 (March 22, 1979) stating: "Israel(i)....settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."
UN Security Council Resolution 242 as well (November 22, 1967) called for "the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East (by the) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent (Six Day War) conflict, termination of all claims or states of belligerency," and respect for the rights of all regional states to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.
Since its inception, the Quartet issued "at least 18 statements expressing its collective opposition to settlements, and has warned repeatedly of the dangers posed to the peace process by continued expansion." But it failed to act and rendered its "statements" toothless and disingenuous. It also hasn't addressed how adversely settlements affect Palestinians' daily lives - in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza siege, and now under a genocidal assault.
As a consequence, Israel feels no need to respect international law or seek an equitable and lasting peace. It can continue to deny Palestinians access to 40% of the West Bank as well as maintain road blocks, barriers, fences, ditches, restricted roads, and the Separation Wall in violation of international law.
It can also:
-- continue land seizures;
-- deny farmers access to their fields and wells;
-- children to schools;
-- people to clinics, hospitals, shops, jobs, worship, social and family interaction, recreation, and all elements of normal life.
-- impoverish them with impunity;
-- render them dependent on outside aid;
--expose them to violence and destruction of their property, crops, water sources, and infrastructure;
-- deny them equity and justice; and
-- highlight where the Quartet stands: one-sidedly for Israel with no concern whatever for Palestinian interests and welfare.
The Group recommended "urgent" measures be adopted to reverse this deplorable situation. In addition, demand that Israel observe its obligations and assure that "grave violations of international humanitarian law are brought to an end;" adopt a Security Council resolution with these provisions and enforce it; and if America vetoes it then the General Assembly should do it instead.