The idea is that a return to direct talks broadly following an outline set by President Obama in his May speech on the Middle East would allow the Palestinians to back down from their insistence on a statehood vote.
But even though Monday’s talks will feature the Quartet’s power players – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host the meeting – arriving at a restart of peace negotiations is anything but assured.
“The challenge now facing the Quartet is twofold,” says Khaled Elgindy, a visiting fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington. The first hurdle will be reaching a “genuine consensus” among the US, EU, UN, and Russia on a statement capable of initiating “a meaningful negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians.”
But even if the Quartet can do that, the looming second uncertainty is “whether anything they say will be sufficient to convince the Palestinians not to go ahead with the UN vote,” says Mr. Elgindy, who is a former member of the Palestinian negotiating support team.
The Palestinians say they would return to the table (and they hint they could shelve the September statehood bid) if talks on borders are based on the pre-1967 lines – as outlined in Mr. Obama’s speech – and if Israel declares a new settlement freeze.