Müller, Patrick. “Informal Security Governance and the Middle East Quartet: Survival of the Unfittest?” International Peacekeeping 21.4 (2014): 464-80.
Indeed, the first political initiatives of the Quartet were promising. The design of the Quartet’s Roadmap plan – which drew on US ideas but also involved strong input from the other Quartet members (especially the EU) – sought to implement lessons learned from the failed Oslo process. Trying to correct past mistakes, it introduced third party monitoring by the Quartet, the parallel implementation of obligations and a clear commitment to a two state settlement by 2005.
Moreover, coordinated action by the Quartet facilitated a number of long overdue reforms of the PA, curtailing the extensive powers of President Yasser Arafat in the run-up to the Roadmap. Simultaneously, the Quartet got a reluctant Israeli government to sign up to the Roadmap initiative, despite several reservations expressed by then prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Yet almost from the outset, the Roadmap process lacked guidance by the Quartet. Despite its formal commitment to the Roadmap initiative, the USA conducted a series of steps that severely undermined its implementation.
The USA – which had assumed sole responsibility for monitoring Israel’s compliance with Roadmap obligations (rather than the Quartet as a whole) – carried out its monitoring tasks in a sporadic fashion, often without informing the public or even its Quartet partners.
A major blow for the Roadmap initiative came in February 2004, when the US government announced its backing of the unilateral disengagement initiative devised by then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon’s disengagement plan was clearly at odds with key elements of the Roadmap, substituting parallel steps towards a bilaterally negotiated solution with unilateral Israeli measures that centred on Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and limited areas of the West Bank. Despite obvious contradictions, the other Quartet members reluctantly followed suit, supporting the disengagement initiative as a step in the implementation of the Roadmap (rather than its substitution).
The freeze of the Roadmap process so soon after its launch almost instantly undermined the Quartet’s diplomatic standing. The disengagement initiative was subsequently coordinated between Israel and the USA. The Quartet, in turn, was relegated to a supportive actor assisting in the transfer of power from Israel to the PA in the Gaza Strip that was completed in September 2005. Moving back into the Roadmap process after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza proved unfeasible and was not supported by Israel’s prime minister. Israel favoured a unilateral approach over resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, coordinating its policies with the USA. As a result, the unrelenting backing of the Roadmap in the Quartet’s declarations and statements increasingly appeared out of sync with political reality.