Israel Report

May 2003         

Who Needs the Quartet?

May 12, 2003
Over the weekend, the US-led coalition submitted a resolution to the UN severely limiting the organization's role in post-Saddam Iraq. European powers like Germany, France, and Russia would also be kept at arm's length.

The coalition can hardly be blamed for frowning on the impudent interference of countries that desire a major share in the spoils of a war they opposed, and perhaps even actively sabotaged. It makes no sense to reward them with loot and influence they don't deserve.

There would be no argument in Israel that the UN, EU, and Russia are all biased and unfriendly to the interests of those in the forefront of the war against the terrorist network. Israel considers itself a scarred but dedicated and determined veteran in the vanguard of the forces fighting that war.

Israel knows all too well, from first-hand experience, that the UN, EU, and Russia have often afforded succor to what the US calls the "axis of evil." So why us? Why should Israel be expected to passively accept and endure what is so unacceptable for the US?

America wants the European meddlers and the UN bureaucrats far from its forces in Iraq. No one will deny that in Israel's case the damage they can do may have existential implications, rather than just involving national purse-strings and prestige considerations.

The UN, EU, and Russia are imposed on Israel as part of the Quartet, whose prime member is the US, and whose brief is to oversee the implementation of the road map to Middle East peace. This presumably involves judging whether the sides live up to their commitments and, based on that, making further demands of them along the path charted by the plan.

The Arabs already cheer European and UN intervention, which they consider unfavorable to Israel. For its part, Israel cannot trust that the UN and Europe will fairly evaluate Palestinian Authority efforts to eradicate terrorism. It's bad enough that Israel alone must make tangible concessions, while Palestinian undertakings may shrink to no more than vague verbal pronouncements of intent. To introduce tendentious supervisors into the mix is disastrous.

European shenanigans go on unabated. How can Israel entertain any hope for a serious process with European involvement when the continent's leaders cannot so much as curb their urge to pay homage to the much-discredited Yasser Arafat?
The US has finally come around to regarding Arafat as unable to break with terrorism, let alone make peace with Israel. The European foreign ministers meeting recently in Rhodes, however, obstinately declared that Arafat must still be viewed as the Palestinians' legitimate leader, despite the fact that most of their own diplomats know better.

At times Europe's supercilious pretense of virtue becomes near-farcical. After Israel warned that its leaders wouldn't meet with European visitors who could not stay away from Arafat, the word from Brussels was that, in that case, they might well prefer Arafat. The firm impression in Israel's Foreign Ministry is that if the choice is between conferring with Sharon or with Arafat, Europeans will opt for the latter and make do with talking to lower-level Israeli officials to evince evenhandedness.

Increasingly, it seems that Arafat is the real object of Europe's affections, and that meeting with Israelis is only a pro-forma gesture to keep Europe's foot in the Middle East's door. Javier Solana, in charge of EU foreign policy, last week came up with a novel solution to circumvent Israel's boycott of European visitors who cannot resist a photo-op with Arafat. Since Israel disapproves of European dignitaries coming here to meet with both Sharon and Arafat, Solana proposed that the same aim be achieved in two separate trips by each European visitor.

There will be one trip for Sharon, following which the visitor will exit the country but will soon return to call on Arafat. Thus the Israelis will be outsmarted and the sophisticated European ruse will make it impossible for them to complain that a visit to Jerusalem was also used for a side-trip to Ramallah. The latter will become a destination on its own.

These are the absurd, if creative, solutions European statesmen are so eminently noted for. Anyone sincerely interested in giving the anyway against-the-odds peace process a remote chance must not give Europe or the UN a pivotal role in that process.

The Quartet was formed before the US launched its war in Iraq. The run-up to that war taught the US that there are almost no limits to European irresponsibility, cynicism, and inclination to oppose the United States. Now that the war has been fought and won, despite Europe and the UN, it is time to disband the Quartet, thereby allowing for a somewhat coherent policy toward a no less sensitive arena.

©2003 - Jerusalem Post
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