The State Department says the Quartet held a “good meeting” Friday — they issued no statement at the end, but began “a conversation about when they’re going to meet next.” Perhaps the Quartet is having trouble reconciling its May 20 statement, supporting President Obama’s “May 19 vision,” with the President’s May 22 speech that modified it. The Quartet – like the State Department – may be unclear how the two presidential speeches relate.
Maybe we can help — by combining the May 22 restatement of the May 19 vision with the general principles of the Quartet’s May 20 statement. On May 22, the President specified what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means:
By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 … to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years … including the new demographic realities on the ground … The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
So the vision is mutual recognition of “two states for two peoples” with a border that accounts for the new demographic realities on the ground. Combine that with the May 20 Quartet statement calling for “direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions,” and add — since the Quartet reiterated its “previous statements and principles” — the principle repeated over and over and over, unilateral actions will not be recognized by the international community.
Finally, add the principle borders must be “defensible” — as the Clinton and Bush administrations (and Obama himself in his let-me-be-clear 2008 AIPAC address) formally assured Israel. No need to reference the 1967 lines, since no one considers them defensible, and the new border – as the President helpfully clarified – will necessarily be different.
So here is a draft of the next Quartet statement, harmonizing all of the above:
The Quartet supports President Obama’s vision of “two states for two peoples,” to be mutually recognized in direct bilateral negotiations conducted without preconditions, accounting for demographic realities on the ground and establishing defensible borders. The Quartet will not recognize any unilateral attempt to establish different borders in a different forum.
The Palestinians will not endorse such a statement, because they will not: (1) agree to two states “for two peoples” (which implicitly rejects a “right of return”); (2) negotiate without preconditions; (3) recognize demographic realities on the ground; (4) endorse defensible borders; or (5) stop their unilateral effort to establish different borders via the UN. But at least the statement would help identify the actual “obstacles to peace.”