When the Quartet met: Well, the vino was good…


JTA’s briefs editor wanted me to write up the absence of a statement this week after a meeting of the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations that guides the Middle East process.

I should have, mea culpa, but I always have a tough time getting my head around writing news that didn’t happen. There’s been a lot of speculation, hard to pin down, about why it didn’t happen — all a senior administration official would tell reporters was that there were "gaps." One version is that the Palestinians would not accept a formulation describing Israel as  a Jewish state, and that the Russians backed them; another was that the Israelis would not accept a formulation noting President Obama’s "1967 lines with land swaps" language that sparked U.S.-Israel tensions in May.

Who knows. But Laura Rozen, the Envoy columnist at Yahoo News, comes up with an amusing take — at least the wine was good:

[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov, speaking at the Russian embassy Tuesday, did little to dispel the perception the meeting was a flop, signaling growing international divisions over how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

The Quartet meeting wasn’t a total loss, he demurred, when asked about it the previous night’s meeting, adding after a beat: "For one, the wine was very good."

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was put through the paces at a press conference Tuesday, as she tried to mitigate journalists’ sense that the Quartet peacemaking apparatus is at best stumped—at worst broken, if not entirely bankrupt.

"So, I hope the dinner was good last night because not a lot seems to have come out of" it, one journalist posed to Nuland. "Why could they not agree on a statement?"

The purpose of the meeting "was not necessarily to issue a statement," Nuland responded. "The main purpose of the Quartet was to have the principals, who have all been working on diplomacy with the parties themselves, come together and assess where we are and talk about how each of the principals, all of the envoys working together, can meet our goal of getting the parties back to the table.

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