Reviving the Quartet

The formation of a Fatah-Hamas unity government should allow the Middle East peace process to resume. Volker Perthes argues that four steps are needed if they are to succeed, In particular, the international Quartet's mandate should be expanded in order to secure the basic national interests of Lebanon and Syria.

Following the formation of a Palestinian unity government between Fatah and Hamas, and the Arab League summit which revived King Abdullah’s peace plan of 2002, it is time for the so-called Middle East Quartet, consisting of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States, to get into action. The Quartet has been dormant since 2000, because any peace process requires negotiations between the parties in conflict.

Instead, the region has witnessed a policy of unilateral steps. Some measures – Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and from the Gaza Strip in 2005, or Hamas’ year-long ceasefire – might be seen as constructive. But, however positive their aims, these steps were taken without consulting the opposite side, thereby entrenching the perception that no partner existed.

By the summer of 2006, with the Lebanon war and Israel’s reoccupation of the Gaza strip, the failure of unilateralism was clear. Today, we know that only a political process that takes each party’s legitimate national interests into account can reduce the risk of renewed violent conflict in the Middle East.

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