James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank Group, passed away on Nov. 15, and in the conclusion of his obituary, The New York Times quoted his “mission impossible” quip about his envoy experience with the Quartet on the Middle East.
“The Middle East turned out to be my mission impossible,” claimed Wolfensohn. He was tasked with working on Israel’s so-called disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair would succeed Wolfensohn in leading the Quartet and be the last leader of the Quartet to have any gravitas on the world stage.
The Quartet has outlived both the involvement of Wolfensohn and Blair, who ended his own involvement with his 2015 resignation and now has outlived Wolfensohn himself. But it has also quite literally outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any at all.
It’s almost never in the news, and yet still exists and still has U.S. involvement. As a reminder, the Quartet was established in Madrid in 2002 and is comprised of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, according to its website.
A review of the Quartet’s website is instructive in examining just what’s wrong with the body. Its failures—and they are plentiful—stem from its entire approach to Israel.
The tagline that is included at the top of every page of the Quartet’s website is “supporting the Palestinian people to build the institutions and economy of a viable, peaceful state in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”
Let’s break down that sentence.
First, it does not mention Israel at all. That, in and of itself, is an important fact that cannot be defended in any way. How can you be about making peace between two sides and ignore that one side exists?
Second, Israel’s major cities and Ben-Gurion International Airport would be within easy rocket range of terrorists sitting on the Palestinian side of the border of a “West Bank” state. Who honestly believes that a new Palestinian government would stamp out the terrorists? Does anybody remember the Oslo Accords, which obligated the Palestinian Authority to outlaw and disarm all terrorists? Who enforced that? Who will enforce future Palestinian compliance?
Not only that, but by linking the Hamas-controlled Gaza terror statelet that now exists with a proposed entity in Judea-Samaria (what the Quartet partisanly labels the “West Bank”) and the Quartet necessitates the creation of a tunnel and/or railway linking Gaza to the P.A.-run territories. Such territorial contiguity would endanger Israel’s security is a very widely accepted fact by Israel’s defense policy establishment.
And that is in part because a tunnel and railway would slice across Israel’s middle and would connect, and thereby significantly strengthen, the potential military capacity of these two perennially hostile anti-Israel regimes. Hamas already takes advantage of every current opportunity to send terrorists from Gaza into Judea and Samaria, so just imagine what it would do if it is given a highway and railway tunnel system through which it could send whatever it wants.
If Israel tried to interfere with Palestinian Arabs using that corridor, it would become the subject of severe international condemnation. The United Nations would almost surely threaten sanctions, as would the European Union. Under such pressure, Israel would hesitate to act—thus effectively tying its hands in the face of a terrorist buildup.
Another issue with the Quartet’s mission statement that must be confronted is the use of a place named “East Jerusalem” when no such place has ever existed in history. The name “East Jerusalem” is an artificial construct that supporters of the Arab use in their propaganda to make it appear as if that part of the city is an intrinsically Arab area that Jews are illegally entering.
The truth is there are Jewish neighborhoods throughout the eastern, western, northern and southern parts of Jerusalem. It’s a shameful thing when Jewish organizations choose to use such geographically inaccurate and politically loaded language. At the time, anti-Israel extremists created the name “East Jerusalem” for one reason: They sought to rip Israel’s capital apart to defeat Israel. What it is that they are really saying with the term is that Jerusalem’s Old City and its surrounding neighborhoods are not part of Israel or part of Israeli Jerusalem itself. The original and oldest parts of Jerusalem are what they falsely label “East Jerusalem.”
For promoters of Israeli territorial concessions, the Gaza Disengagement that Wolfensohn was so heavily involved with was supposed to set the precedent they hoped would soon be repeated in the Judea and Samaria areas. Instead, Gaza has become the most graphic illustration of why relinquishing Judea and Samaria to the perennially hostile and extremely corrupt P.A. is a flat-out dangerous idea.
It’s worth noting that the last time before Wolfensohn’s death the Quartet was in the news at all was in June 2020, in the aftermath of the Trump plan for Middle East peace being made public. The P.A. declared to it, in a letter, “We are ready to have our state with a limited number of weapons.”
Led by Mahmoud Abbas, the P.A. understands that the Quartet’s envoys and its bureaucracy are biased in their favor, even more so than the United Nations, and that is why it appealed to it in its effort to stay relevant when so many other of its former friends around the world were suddenly not willing to kowtow to it any longer.
The Middle East’s political climate has changed remarkably in the last several years, largely due to the work of the Trump administration’s Middle East team. One thing the president can do now to bolster what has been accomplished in the Middle East during his term would be to end U.S. sponsorship from the Quartet. And the sooner, the better.