White House briefs Jews on Quartet


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Top White House officials briefed Jewish community leaders about a Quartet statement urging Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks with no preconditions, a key Israeli demand.

"The Quartet reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions," said a statement released Friday evening by the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union that guides Middle East peace talks.

Officials, including Dennis Ross, President Obama’s top Middle East adviser, pitched the statement to the Jewish listeners as a major accomplishment in Israel’s favor.

The statement came the same day that, in addresses to the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his appeal for talks without preconditions, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that settlement construction must freezed before talks restart.

The Quartet statement also laid down a timeline for negotiations, calling for agreement by the end of 2012 and said talks should address security and territory within three months of starting.

The Anti-Defamation League praised the call for talks without preconditions, but expressed reservations about a timeline and parameters.

"We believe the Quartet erred in setting a preliminary agenda limited to issues of security and borders and timetables for proposals," the ADL said in a statement. "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."

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