Major powers accused of failing Middle East peace and Palestinians

By agency reporter
October 2, 2008

The Middle East Quartet (EU, Russia, UN, USA) is failing - making inadequate progress towards improving the lives of Palestinians or improving the prospects for peace - according to a new report by leading humanitarian and human rights organisations.

The Middle East Quartet: A Progress Report was released last week on the eve of a crucial meeting of the Quartet members in New York to discuss the future of the Middle East peace process.

The coalition of 21 aid agencies and human rights organisations – including CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Oxfam International, Save the Children UK and World Vision Jerusalem – warns that key areas the Quartet committed to improving remain unchanged or have deteriorated since the Annapolis Conference last November, when the group launched its major bid for peace in the Middle East:

* Settlements: The Quartet has failed to hold the Israeli authorities to account for the continued expansion of illegal settlements. According to the report, the Quartet has spoken out about settlements 18 times and yet settlement expansion is accelerating and taking a drastic toll on Palestinian daily life.

* Access and Movement: The Quartet has had negligible impact in their stated goal of improving Palestinians’ ability to move freely in their own territory, to work, reach their schools or access basic services and to import and export goods. The number of restrictions – including check-points, the Wall and restricted roads – increased from 561 in November 2007, when Annapolis began, to around 600 in August 2008.

* Gaza: Despite the cessation of violence in Gaza, the Quartet has been unable to lift the blockade or secure a significant improvement in the humanitarian situation. 80% of Gaza’s population remains wholly or partially dependent on aid and stalled emergency relief projects have yet to be resumed.

David Mepham, Director of Policy, Save the Children UK said: ‘Today’s study shows that the Quartet has fundamentally failed to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground. Unless the Quartet's words are matched by more sustained pressure and decisive action, the situation will deteriorate still further.

‘Time is fast running out. The Quartet needs to radically revise its existing approach and show the people of the region that it can help make a difference.’

The report assesses progress made on ten of the Quartet’s own objectives, using data gathered by the humanitarian and human rights organisations that work on the ground. The objectives include:

* Israel to freeze all settlement activity including natural growth and to dismantle outposts

* Urgent steps needed to improve access and movement

* Respect of cessation of violence between Hamas and Israel

* Increased humanitarian and commercial flows through the Gaza crossings and the immediate resumption of stalled UN and other donor projects in Gaza

* Continued Palestinian efforts to fight terrorism and to implement a more comprehensive security strategy

The report found that in five of the ten areas - including the most critical - rather than securing progress, there had either been no change or a marked deterioration.

It reveals that, since Annapolis, the Quartet has had partial achievements - in supporting Palestinian security sector reform, securing donor pledges, increasing fuel for Gaza and stimulating private sector activity - but has been unable to deliver change in the most pressing areas. The report warns that the Quartet’s failures could pose a fatal threat to peace.

Daleep Mukarji, Director of Christian Aid, said: ‘The Annapolis process was meant to herald a new dawn for the Middle East peace process. Nearly one year on, we are seeing exponential settlement growth, additional check-points and - because of this - further economic stagnation. The Quartet is losing its grip on the Middle East Peace Process.’

Based on this evidence, the coalition calls on the Quartet to use tomorrow’s meeting in New York to:

* Enforce the deals they brokered and ensure all parties are held to account for any failure to comply with their obligations under the peace process and international humanitarian and human rights law.

* Support efforts to pass a resolution at the UN Security Council to address the humanitarian and economic impact of settlement expansion on Palestinian communities and the broader peace process.

* Adopt a new approach to improving access and movement in the occupied Palestinian territory, removing the network of restrictions rather than tackling individual obstacles while addressing Israeli security concerns.

* Commit to bringing a swift end to the blockade of Gaza and the policy of collective punishment.

* Strengthen the cessation of violence between Hamas and Israel and work with regional governments to promote Palestinian reconciliation.

Martha Myers, Country Director for CARE International West Bank and Gaza, said: ‘We are facing a vacuum in leadership. The Quartet has been unable to hold parties to their obligations and this must change fast.

‘The Quartet’s credibility is on the line and we hope it will use this meeting to show it is able to go beyond rhetoric and make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.’

The full report (*.PDF format) is available here: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/Quartet%20Report%20Final%20Version...

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