Quartet's Call for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Laudable, But Attempt to Dictate Agenda 'Cause for Concern'

New York, NY, September 25, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed support for the principle, as outlined last week in a statement from members of the Middle East Quartet, of direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations without preconditions. But the League expressed reservations about the expanded role of the Quartet – which includes the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union – in setting specific parameters for talks.

Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:

The international community is now firmly behind the approach of direct negotiations Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pursued since taking office in 2009. The core principle of the Quartet's statement of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians without preconditions is laudable. This approach is consistent with the positions presented by President Obama and Mr. Netanyahu at the U.N., and is the only appropriate way to achieve the mutual aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian people for an enduring peace between two states.

At the same time, there are troubling aspects to the statement, and the expanded role of the Quartet in talks is cause for concern. Three members of the Quartet have been highly critical of Israel, and that unbalanced sentiment has found its way into some of the group's recent statements. We believe the Quartet erred in setting a preliminary agenda limited to issues of security and borders and timetables for proposals. By going as far as it does, the Quartet statement misses an opportunity to send the clearest possible message to the Palestinians that the sole path to statehood lies in direct negotiations with Israel. Borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem are intimately intertwined and cannot be dealt with separately or in any combination which does not include all of them.

In recent months it has also been clear that the members of the Quartet are not unified in their approach to the peace process. We are especially concerned that differences among the members could lead to awkward compromises that would interfere with accomplishing the goal of direct negotiations without preconditions. Continued strong U.S. leadership will be needed to keep the Quartet and President Abbas focused on getting back to the table. In light of the inflammatory remarks by President Abbas in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, it is unfortunate the Quartet members were unable to come up with what is needed most -- a clear and simple statement promoting direct negotiations -- without trying to dictate the agenda for those talks.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias education programs for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all.

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