U.S. reportedly will approve harsher language against Israel in settlements report

(JTA) – The United States reportedly will approve harsher language against Israel in a report set to be released by the Middle East Quartet dealing with Israeli settlements and other actions in the West Bank.

The focus of the report by the Quartet, the body comprising the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union that has guided Middle East peacemaking since the early 2000s, will be the uptick in building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, The Associated Press (AP) reported, citing unnamed diplomats, including three U.S. officials.

The report, which is set to come out later this month or in June, reportedly also will rebuke Palestinian leaders for their failure to prevent anti-Israel violence, the AP reported.

The U.S. approval of taking a tougher stance against Israel, and laying more of the blame for the current situation on Israel, is a change from its usual position of working to soften statements by the Quartet and the international community, AP noted.

The report is largely symbolic and requires no action, AP reported, citing the diplomats, who said it could be unveiled at the United Nations and sent to the Security Council for endorsement.

The diplomats said the report is “intended to highlight obstacles to a two-state peace agreement – the stated goal of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders – and offer recommendations for restarting negotiations in a process that is stalled,” according to AP.

The report is unusual in that it is taking a position on the lack of progress in the Israel-Palestinian peace process using little consultation with the two sides.

Meanwhile, Israel has been in contact with all members of the Quartet in an effort to soften the tone of the report, Haaretz reported, citing an unnamed senior official in Jerusalem. In addition, Israel has provided documents to the Quartet in order to soften criticism of Israel or increase criticism of the Palestinians.

The Israeli official told Haaretz that there is concern in Jerusalem that the United States will allow a statement in the report saying settlements are illegal. To date, the harshest position the U.S. has taken is that the settlements are illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. Israel is also trying to prevent any mention in the report of possible future action in the UN Security Council, the official said.

The United States reportedly has taken the lead in composing the report.

Haaretz reported that the report is set to be released a week before the scheduled summit of foreign ministers in Paris as a start to renewing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The meeting on May 30 will not include representatives of Israel and the Palestinians.

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