Middle East Quartet Meeting in Germany

No Tangible Progress, But Important Signals

The Arab states are to be involved more strongly in revitalising the peace process in the Middle East in future. That is the outcome of the meeting of the "Middle East Quartet" in Berlin this week. Rainer Sollich comments

From left to right: Condoleezza Rice, Sergej Lawrow, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ban Ki Moon, Javier Solana, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (photo: AP)
It was the second meeting of the Quartet in three weeks, with the next to be held in an Arab country

​​The meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Berlin has not brought tangible progress. But it has sent out several important signals: the international community is finally showing more interest in finding a solution for the Palestinian conflict.

It has professed its commitment to the goal of an independent and sustainable Palestinian state. It demands that the planned new Palestinian government coalition of Hamas and Fatah recognises Israel's right to existence, renounces violence and keeps to the agreements already made. And it would like to involve the Arab neighbour states more strongly as partners in all future attempts at a solution for the conflict.

Failing to keep to the "roadmap"

No doubt about it: the Middle East Quartet has risen from its deathbed – revitalised not least by Germany's commitment in its role as president of the European Council.

Whether the quartet of the USA, UN, EU and Russia will also succeed in revitalising the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves in the foreseeable future is another matter entirely. The conditions, unfortunately, are not good.

Five years ago, the Middle East Quartet revealed to the world its ambitious plan to enable the foundation of an independent Palestinian state by 2005. The world, and the Palestinians, are still waiting today. Both sides of the conflict failed to keep to the "roadmap" from the very beginning: there was neither an end to the violence on the Palestinian side, nor a stop to the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The only option: A two-state solution

Despite the difficulties of the conflict in detail, it is nevertheless obvious that the only realistic route to peace is a fair two-state solution. One can only hope that the parties at stake finally come to this conclusion, particularly Hamas: attempting to wrest concessions out of a state that one doesn't recognise would be as senseless as it is unrealistic.

Fatah has learned this lesson the hard way. Unfortunately, however, there are few indications that Hamas will realise this. And Hamas will also have a very significant hold over Palestinian policy in the future.

An added problem is that Israel persists in building further settlements and its dividing wall along one side of the Palestinian areas – without arousing a major wave of international condemnation.

Mideast policy crisis

The situation is further complicated by the fact that there are no politicians in sight on either side with the necessary domestic support for a peaceful solution. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is deeply mired in a domestic policy crisis, while the Palestinians are attempting to form a government out of two parties whose supporters were engaged in bloody street-fighting only weeks ago.

Ultimately, there is no lack of initiatives and plans for peace in the Middle East worthy of discussion. What is lacking is political players with the strength and will to put them into practice against opposition.

Rainer Sollich

© Qantara.de 2007

Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire

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