Foreign ministers of Group of Eight countries urged Israel to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank Friday, during a meeting in Italy largely focusing on recent events in Iran. They also called on Israelis and Palestinians to renew direct negotiations over all disputed issues.
Also meeting Friday on the sidelines of the summit is the Mideast Quartet – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – to try to help move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forwardâ€¦
A range of Arab League nations will join in a follow-on session Friday afternoon. Israel was not invited; the Italian Foreign Ministry said that decision was taken by the Quartet, not Italy.
The BBC reports that the Quartet has also asked for Israel â€œto stop all West Bank settlement building activity and to open its border crossings.â€ Palestinians have demanded this as a precondition for resuming negotiations.
Itâ€™s almost too easy to point out that in 1938 the Czechs were not invited to the Munich conference either. Of course this meeting will not produce a document with such immediate impact on Israel as the Munich diktat had for Czechoslovakia, but the sense of powerful nations deciding the fate of a small one in consultation with its enemies remains.
If a Martian asked me why the â€˜Quartetâ€™ â€” the UN, EU, US and Russia â€” is particularly suited to bring about a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians, I would not be able to answer. The UN is dominated by Muslim and third-world countries and has been particularly hostile to Israel for decades. The EUâ€™s member nations have important economic relationships with Arab oil producers, and also have political and psychological reasons for tilting toward the Palestinians. The EU quietly funds many NGOs whose output is significantly biased against Israel. Russia, a traditionally antisemitic nation, has economic ties with Iran and also feels threatened by Israelâ€™s nuclear capability.
This leaves the US as the sole member of the Quartet that might be expected to support Israel, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration has few â€” if any â€” power centers opposed to the anti-Israel forces in the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon (which has undergone significant changes since the early part of the previous administration). Add to this the fact that President Obama himself seems to be taking a tack designed to improve relations between the US and the Muslim world, and one wonders who will represent Israelâ€™s interests in this group.