Disband the Mideast Quartet

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The Quartet and its Roadmap permit us to ignore this. Indeed, already under Bush, the 2007 Benchmarks scheme was working towards bypassing whatever schedule of Palestinian compliance was required under the Roadmap.

Like a rocket booster, the Roadmap served the purpose of propelling U.S. policy in a certain direction, to be jettisoned thereafter as extraneous baggage.

Last November, the PA received an extra $150 million in direct aid from the Obama administration on top of the $739.9 million it had already received from the U.S. taxpayer in 2010. And, like European aid, there were no strings attached, no benchmarks and no performance standards.

Why? Because the Quartet’s Roadmap aims to establish a Palestinian state, irrespective of what Palestinians say and do.

That may not worry some Europeans, but it is not something the U.S. can support without detriment. The U.S. has enough problems of influence and credibility in a region in which Iran is ascendant without also multiplying its foes and endangering its friends.

The Quartet has done nothing in nearly eight years except to entrench and prolong the conflict by insulating the PA from the consequences of its conduct. But a new Congress can begin to take steps. For a start, it can push for de-funding the PA.

Until now, aid to Israel has been embedded in foreign aid bills. This has insulated foreign aid from broader congressional debate and resulted in a coalition of foreign aid enthusiasts and Israel supporters passing successive bills. However, if at some point the Eric Cantor-Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plan for decoupling military aid to Israel from the overall foreign aid package bears fruit, it will become easier to subject all remaining elements of the package to greater scrutiny on their own merits. Aid to the PA should be an early candidate for such scrutiny.

A unified Quartet policy, like so many multilateral ventures, is politics of the lowest common denominator. It ignores unpleasant realities (no Palestinian consensus for peace or leadership to deliver it), prioritizes means (Palestinian state) over ends (peace), while frustrating the capacity to attain these goals.

European friends, Russian rivals and UN malefactors are unlikely to see matters as the U.S. views them. Neither on the Middle East nor on much else will their views coincide, the more so when Barack Obama leaves office. We should therefore end the charade that, on this, of all issues, a common vision can be achieved by the Quartet. But as that is the fiction for which the Quartet was invented, it would be better if it was disbanded.

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