Quartet releases report on impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace: ‘Two-state solution in danger’
The report says Palestinians must act against terrorism, while Israel must stop settlement construction.
The foreign ministers of the Quartet – the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN – asserted in a report released on Friday afternoon that the current track taken by the Israelis and Palestinians has pushed the two-state solution farther away, creating a situation in which a one-state reality has taken root.
The report calls on the Palestinian Authority to stop incitement, step up efforts to stop terrorism and condemn attacks against Israelis. It calls on Israel to stop settlement construction and put a stop to the gradual takeover of Area C in the West Bank.
Members of the Quartet decided to devise the report during a foreign ministers’ meeting in February. The decision was taken against the backdrop of the French peace bid. The foreign ministers sought to stop France from taking over the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the international arena. However, in recent weeks the two parallel initiatives grew more coordinated and complementary.
The report was written by senior diplomats representing the members of the Quartet – the American special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Frank Lowenstein, European envoy Fernando Gentilini, United Nations envoy Nikolai Mladenov and Russian envoy Sergey Vershinin.
Dozens of drafts were drawn up during the writing process, with changes being made to the report until only a few days before its release. Eventually it was approved unanimously by the four envoys and the four foreign ministers.
Over the course of the past few months, Israel and the Palestinians both attempted to influence the contents of the report, transferring documents to the Quartet envoys and holding meetings with them. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself held active contacts with the Quartet’s foreign ministers in an effort to soften the report’s criticism of Israeli policy.
Senior Israeli officials and western diplomats stressed that despite the report’s strong criticism of Israel and its policies in the occupied territories, the final version of the report was more balanced and its wording milder than the drafts that had been discussed until a few weeks ago.
Palestine News Network publishe the full report
Statement by the Quartet Principals on the Release of the Quartet Report
In line with their decision announced in Munich on 12 February 2016 and underlining
their commitment to support a comprehensive, just, and lasting resolution to the Palestinian–Israeli
conflict, the representatives of the Middle East Quartet – Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union
High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – present a report on the situation on
the ground focusing on major threats to achieving a negotiated peace and offering recommendations
to advance the two-state solution.
The Quartet invites both parties to engage with it on implementing its recommendations
and creating the conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations that resolve all
final status issues.
Report of the Middle East Quartet
At its meeting in Munich on 12 February 2016, the Middle East Quartet reiterated its
concern that current trends are imperiling the viability of the two-state solution. Underlining
its commitment to supporting a comprehensive, just, and lasting resolution to the
Palestinian–Israeli conflict, the Quartet agreed to prepare a report on the situation on
This report does not provide a complete review of the humanitarian, political, legal, and
security aspects of the situation, or address final status issues. It focuses on major
threats to achieving a negotiated peace and offers recommendations to advance the
The Quartet reiterates that a negotiated two-state outcome is the only way to achieve
an enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for
statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all
permanent status issues.
The Quartet recalls its previous statements and relevant United Nations Security Council
resolutions and pledges its active support for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on
the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). In this regard, the
Quartet reiterates its commitment to continue working in coordination with key stakeholders,
including regional countries and the UN Security Council, to restore hope in a
While the majority of people on both sides and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
President Mahmoud Abbas express their support for the goal of two states living side by
side in peace and security, the Quartet remains seriously concerned that continuing on
the current course will make this prospect increasingly remote. In particular, each of the
following trends is severely undermining hopes for peace:
Continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians, and incitement to violence
are greatly exacerbating mistrust and are fundamentally incompatible with a
The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion, designation of
land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development is steadily
eroding the viability of the two-state solution; and
The illicit arms build-up and militant activity, continuing absence of Palestinian
unity, and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed instability and ultimately impede
efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.
The Quartet stresses the urgent need for affirmative steps to reverse each of these
trends in order to prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and
conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples.
The Quartet reiterates that unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome
of final status negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.
The Quartet stresses that while a permanent status agreement that ends the conflict
can only be achieved through direct bilateral negotiations, important progress can be
made now towards advancing the two-state solution on the ground.
The Quartet calls on each side to independently demonstrate, through policies and actions,
a genuine commitment to the two-state solution.
To that end, the Quartet emphasizes the importance of both parties complying with their
basic commitments under existing agreements in order to promote this two-state reality
and lay the groundwork for successful negotiations.
I. Violence and Incitement
Continuing violence, recent acts of terrorism against Israelis, and incitement to violence
are fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-state solution and are
greatly exacerbating mistrust between the communities. Upholding the commitment to
act effectively against violence, terrorism, and incitement is critical to rebuilding confidence
and to avoiding escalation that will further undermine the prospects for peace.
Violence. In the recent wave of violence that began in October 2015, there have been
over 250 attacks and attempted attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. At least 30 Israelis
have been killed in stabbings, shootings, vehicular attacks, and a bombing. In the
most intense period, there were three to four attacks per day across Israel, Jerusalem,
and the West Bank. These terrorist attacks, which have been carried out mostly by
young, unaffiliated individuals, contribute to the sense among Israelis of living under
During this period, at least 140 Palestinians have been killed while carrying out or reportedly
carrying out attacks. At least 60 more were killed by Israeli Security Forces
during Palestinian demonstrations, clashes, or military operations.
The frequency of attacks and clashes declined significantly in 2016. This slowdown is
due in large part to the effective efforts of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, who
have successfully thwarted attacks, seized weapons, and arrested suspected extremists.
Continued security coordination between both sides has also played a key part in
reducing violence. The importance of these factors has been recognized by both Israeli
and Palestinian security officials and political leaders.
Recent terrorist attacks, however, like the Jerusalem bus bombing in April and the
deadly café shooting in Tel Aviv in June, where four Israelis were killed, are tragic examples
that the underlying causes of the recurring cycles of violence remain.
During this period, Israel has responded by expanding the use of administrative detention,
resuming punitive house demolitions and enforcing closures of whole districts,
which can further exacerbate tensions. Some senior Israeli security officials have ex-
pressed concern about cases, including several captured on video, in which excessive
force appeared to be used when there was no immediate threat. One soldier has been
indicted for manslaughter.
Settler violence against Palestinians, including assaults, vandalism, and the destruction
of property, remains a serious concern. While there has been a significant decline in
the number of attacks over the past three years, there have been some especially severe
incidents, including the horrific arson attack in Douma in 2015 that left three dead
and the burning to death of a Palestinian youth in 2014. Such attacks, which senior Israeli
officials have called terrorist acts, contribute to a continuing sense of vulnerability
Israel has increased efforts to curb settler violence by establishing a special police unit
and enhancing preventive and punitive measures applied against extremist groups.
While prosecutions of suspected perpetrators have increased, and there have been
some high profile convictions, the overall conviction rate for Israeli extremists accused
of violence remains significantly lower than for Palestinians.
Incitement to Violence. Palestinians who commit terrorist attacks are often glorified
publicly as “heroic martyrs.” Many widely circulated images depict individuals committing
terrorist acts with slogans encouraging violence. The spreading of incitement to
violence on social media has gained momentum since October 2015, and is particularly
affecting the youth.
Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit and widespread
forms of incitement. These groups use media outlets to glorify terrorism and openly call
for violence against Jews, including instructing viewers on how to carry out stabbings.
Following the April 2016 bombing of an Israeli bus that injured at least 21 people, Hamas
staged a rally celebrating the attack.
Some members of Fatah have publicly supported attacks and their perpetrators, as well
as encouraged violent confrontation. In the midst of this recent wave of violence, a senior
Fatah official referred to perpetrators as “heroes and a crown on the head of every
Palestinian.” Fatah social media has shown attackers superimposed next to Palestinian
leaders following terrorist attacks.
The Palestinian Authority leadership has repeatedly made statements expressing opposition
to violence against civilians and senior officials have publicly maintained a commitment
to non-violent resistance. Regrettably, however, Palestinian leaders have not
consistently and clearly condemned specific terrorist attacks. And streets, squares and
schools have been named after Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism.
Extremist ideologies espousing hate, racism, and violence have a dangerous influence
on both sides. Israeli extremists and perpetrators of “Price Tag” attacks often call for
“Death to Arabs,” and some social media sites have included references to justifications
for violence against Palestinians. In at least one notable case, a video celebrating the
Douma arson attack was widely circulated. Among other incidents, some Israeli leaders
and officials have spoken in support of the use of lethal force against Palestinian assailants.
II. Settlement Expansion, Land Designations, and Denial of Palestinian Development
The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank and
East Jerusalem, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian
development, including the recent high rate of demolitions, is steadily eroding the viability
of the two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term
intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there
should never be a Palestinian state. In fact, the transfer of greater powers and responsibilities
to Palestinian civil authority in Area C contemplated by commitments in prior
agreements has effectively been stopped, and in some ways reversed, and should be
resumed to advance the two-state solution and prevent a one-state reality from taking
Designating Land for Exclusive Israeli Use. Area C comprises 60 percent of the West
Bank and includes the majority of agricultural lands, natural resources, and land reserves.
Some 70 percent of Area C has been unilaterally taken for exclusive Israeli
use, mostly through inclusion in the boundaries of local and regional settlement councils
or designations of “state land.” Nearly all of the remaining 30 percent of Area C, much
of which is private Palestinian property, is effectively off limits for Palestinian development
because it requires permits from the Israeli military authorities that are almost
The process of designating additional “state land” in Area C, which potentially impacts
any land that cannot clearly be established as Palestinian private property, is ongoing.
In March of 2016, over 2,000 dunams south of Jericho were declared state land, and in
August 2014, nearly 4,000 dunams west of Bethlehem were declared state land.
Settlement Construction and Expansion. Since the beginning of the Oslo process in
1993, the population of settlements has more than doubled, with a threefold increase in
Area C alone. There are currently at least 370,000 Israelis living in some 130 settlements
in Area C, including at least 85,000 deep in the West Bank. Combined with
some 200,000 in East Jerusalem, this brings the total settler population to at least
The policy of steadily constructing and expanding settlements and related infrastructure
continues. Between 2009 and 2014, the West Bank settler population increased by
over 80,000, including at least 16,000 deep in the West Bank. During this period, construction
began on over 9,000 new settlement units in Area C and over 3,000 in East
Jerusalem. Since mid-2014, there has been a marked slowdown in the advancement of
plans and issuance of tenders for West Bank settlement units. However, the rate of
construction starts during this period has remained consistent, as there are previously
approved plans and tenders that allow building to continue even in the absence of new
Moreover, the process of retroactively “legalizing” outposts has the practical impact of
expanding the footprint of existing settlements, if not effectively creating new ones. Approximately
100 settlement outposts in Area C have been built without formal Israeli
Government approval. Under Israeli law, these outposts are illegal and must eventually
either be retroactively authorized or removed. The Government’s approach has been to
pursue “legalization” when possible. Over the past decade, 19 outposts have been “legalized”
and 13 others are reportedly in that process, including several that were explicitly
supposed to have been dismantled under the Quartet Road Map. The rest remain
pending government action. Dismantling of these outposts has been very rare, and in
cases where the court has ordered their removal, the Government has sometimes provided
land for relocation in Area C.
Denying Palestinian Development. The Israel military retains full authority over development
in Area C, including planning and zoning for housing, industrial zones, tourism
sites, and essential infrastructure, such as roads and electricity lines. While settlements
have continued to grow, there has been a near complete cessation of issuance of approvals
for private Palestinian development or construction in Area C. In fact, only one
permit for Palestinian housing construction in Area C was reportedly approved in 2014,
and there do not appear to have been any in 2015. In the five-year period from 2009 to
2013, only 34 building permits were approved for Palestinians in Area C, out of at least
All structures lacking permits from the Israeli authorities in Area C and East Jerusalem
are potentially subject to demolition orders. There are over 5,000 demolition orders
pending against Israeli structures in Area C, and over 11,000 demolition orders pending
against Palestinian structures, three-quarters of which are on private Palestinian land.
Only a small percentage are executed every year. However, as Palestinians are consistently
denied permits to build legally, they are left with few options but to build without
There was a significant increase in the number of Palestinian structures demolished
across the West Bank in the first four months of this year, with some 500 demolitions of
Palestinian structures by the Israeli authorities and nearly 800 Palestinians displaced,
more than in all of 2015. In East Jerusalem, 64 Palestinian structures were demolished
from January to June of 2016. Vulnerable Bedouin and farming communities are most
heavily impacted by these demolitions. Although many of these were not dwellings, the
loss of structures such as water wells, solar panels, and animal shelters has impacted
the livelihoods of over 2,500 people since the beginning of the year.
Palestinian development is also constrained by complex physical and administrative
restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which Israel justifies as necessary
for its security, including of settlements. These restrictions, including temporary and
longstanding checkpoints, add costs to importers and exporters, limit access to natural
resources and agricultural land, and discourage private sector investment. While some
restrictions have been eased and the number of temporary permits for work in Israel
has increased to nearly 70,000 in 2016, Palestinians still face substantial difficulties in
accessing basic services and employment opportunities. Moreover, these restrictions
amplify the humiliation of living under military occupation and frustrate many aspects of
Palestinians daily life, including going to school, seeking medical attention, or attending
III. The Gaza Strip and Palestinian Governance
The illicit arms buildup and militant activity by Hamas, the lack of control of Gaza by the
Palestinian Authority, and the dire humanitarian situation, exacerbated by the closures
of the crossings, feed instability and ultimately impede efforts to achieve a negotiated
solution. Preventing the use of territory for attacks against Israel is a key commitment
that is essential to long-term peace and security. In the absence of significant steps by
all sides to address the deteriorating conditions, the risk increases of a new escalation
Continuing Militant Build-Up. The illicit arms buildup in Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian
groups is continuing, including the building of tunnels, the smuggling of weapons,
and the production and launching of rockets towards Israel. Such activities increase
the risk of renewed conflict, divert resources from humanitarian efforts, and
threaten the lives of civilians in Israel and Gaza.
While the 2014 ceasefire is otherwise holding it remains fragile, with at least 160 rockets
and mortars fired at Israel, keeping thousands of people on both sides under constant
threat of attacks. In the course of the 2014 conflict, Israel discovered 14 tunnels penetrating
its territory. Recently, two more tunnels were discovered, leading to a temporary
escalation in which militants fired 40 mortars and eight rockets at Israel and the IDF
conducted 13 airstrikes. At least four civilians in Gaza have been killed in Israeli airstrikes
since the 2014 ceasefire.
There have been a significant number of attempts to smuggle dual-use materials restricted
by Israel that can be used for weapons manufacturing and tunneling. In early
April, Israel suspended private import of cement to Gaza for 45 days following the diversion
of a substantial amount from its intended legitimate beneficiaries.
Lack of Palestinian Unity. Reuniting Palestinians under a single, democratic and legitimate
Palestinian authority on the basis of the PLO platform and Quartet principles remains
a priority. This is critical for the fulfillment of the national aspirations of the Palestinian
people. The constraints of the occupation, the absence of elections, and budgetary
pressures contribute to growing public discontent and undermine the popular legitimacy
of Palestinian institutions and leadership. The division also damages Gaza’s
economic development, hinders basic service delivery, and impedes the reconstruction
Dire Humanitarian Situation. Severe poverty, a crippling unemployment rate, and the
chronic underdevelopment of Gaza further feed instability and frustration that could create
the conditions for renewed conflict. 1.3 million Gazans are in need of sustained
humanitarian assistance, including temporary shelter and food. Most people have electricity
less than half of the time, while only five percent of the water is safe for human
Reconstruction also remains inadequate, despite notable easing measures implemented
by the Israeli government and some visible signs of progress. With international
support, more than 90 percent of schools as well as 80 percent of electricity and 60 per
cent of water infrastructure have been repaired or rebuilt following the 2014 Gaza conflict.
1.3 million tons of construction material has entered Gaza since the last conflict,
including a recent average of over 10,000 tons per day, allowing for reconstruction of
the housing, electricity and water infrastructure as well as rejuvenation of the private
sector. Over three-quarters of houses that suffered severe damage have yet to be repaired,
however, in part because only 40 percent of the donor funds pledged for Gaza in
Cairo in 2014 have actually been delivered.
In 2014, Israel partially lifted a seven-year ban on all exports from Gaza to Israel and
the West Bank, which led to an increase in goods exiting Gaza. Nevertheless, total exports
out of Gaza are currently only 17 percent of what they were before Hamas took
control. The Israeli restrictions on external trade and access to fishing waters contribute
to food insecurity and humanitarian aid dependency. Basic materials needed to restore
agricultural and manufacturing facilities are considered dual use and their entry is restricted.
And while the number of Palestinians exiting Gaza via Israel has grown during
the past few years, such travel – including to the West Bank and East Jerusalem – remains
severely limited, primarily restricted to medical and other humanitarian cases,
businesspeople, and religious visits.
The Quartet calls on each side to independently demonstrate, through policies and actions,
a genuine commitment to the two-state solution and refrain from unilateral steps
that prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. The Quartet emphasizes the importance
of both parties complying with their basic commitments in order to advance a
peaceful two state reality on the ground and create the conditions for successful final
status negotiations. The Quartet has the following specific recommendations:
1. Both sides should work to de-escalate tensions by exercising restraint and refraining
from provocative actions and rhetoric.
2. Both sides should take all necessary steps to prevent violence and protect the
lives and property of all civilians, including through continuing security coordination
and strengthening the capacity, capability and authority of the Palestinian
Authority Security Forces.
3. The Palestinian Authority should act decisively and take all steps within its capacity
to cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat
terrorism, including by clearly condemning all acts of terrorism.
4. Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, designating
land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development.
5. Israel should implement positive and significant policy shifts, including transferring
powers and responsibilities in Area C, consistent with the transition to greater
Palestinian civil authority contemplated by prior agreements. Progress in the
areas of housing, water, energy, communications, agriculture, and natural resources,
along with significantly easing Palestinian movement restrictions, can
be made while respecting Israel’s legitimate security needs.
6. The Palestinian leadership should continue their efforts to strengthen institutions,
improve governance, and develop a sustainable economy. Israel should take all
necessary steps to enable this process, in line with the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee
7. All sides must continue to respect the ceasefire in Gaza, and the illicit arms
buildup and militant activities must be terminated.
8. Israel should accelerate the lifting of movement and access restrictions to and
from Gaza, with due consideration of its need to protect its citizens from terrorist
9. Gaza and the West Bank should be reunified under a single, legitimate and democratic
Palestinian authority on the basis of the PLO platform and Quartet
principles and the rule of law, including control over all armed personnel and
weapons in accordance with existing agreements.
10. Both parties should foster a climate of tolerance, including through increasing interaction
and cooperation in a variety of fields – economic, professional,
educational, cultural – that strengthen the foundations for peace and countering
The Quartet stresses the urgent need for such affirmative steps to reverse current
trends and advance the two-state solution on the ground.
The Quartet stresses the significance of the Arab Peace Initiative (API), with its vision
for comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and, in that context, the opportunity
for building a regional security framework, and encourages further dialogue on
that basis. In this regard, the Quartet welcomes the call by the Egyptian President to
Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab leaders to follow the historic path towards peace taken by
Israel and Egypt 37 years ago.
The Quartet also welcomes the Joint Communique issued in Paris on June 3 and its
support for a negotiated two-state solution.
The Quartet encourages the international community to accelerate its efforts to address
the dire humanitarian, reconstruction, and recovery needs of the people in Gaza, including
expediting the disbursement of assistance pledges.
The Quartet invites the parties to engage with it on implementing the recommendations
of this report and creating the conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations
that resolve all final status issues.