It was an august ceremony that signified absolutely nothing, the Middle East Peace Conference held in Paris just six months ago.
Representatives from some 70 countries, including the foreign ministers from 30 of them – along with outgoing US secretary of state John Kerry – took part in the parley on January 15.
The event caused no small degree of prior consternation in Jerusalem, concerned it might produce some final statement that would set the parameters for peace which, in the very final gasp of Barack Obama’s presidency, would be adopted and codified into a resolution by the UN Security Council.
So much energy expended on nothing.
The conference released a statement that nobody paid attention to, and five days later US President Donald Trump was inaugurated into office.
Many of the heroes of the 2017 Paris summit are no longer on the scene: French president Francois Hollande, gone; French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, gone; Kerry, gone.
Gone too, at least for the time being, is an obsessive European and French focus on the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, on the settlements.
In fact, months have gone by now without the monthly meeting of European foreign ministers issuing statements about the peace process, often in an unbalanced way to place the onus for the diplomatic stalemate on Israel’s shoulders. Who remembers the last time EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was mentioned in an Israeli news report? One hears much less of late about the European Union or individual European countries considering sanctions against Israel for continued settlement construction.
Sure, they perfunctorily issue condemnatory statements following any news of new settlement building.
But the matter generally stops there.
Granted, French President Emmanuel Macron raised the Palestinian issue and – unlike either Indian President Narendra Modi or Trump when they were in Jerusalem during the last two months – pledged allegiance to a two-state solution with east Jerusalem as a joint capital, during a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris on Sunday.
He also made a point of criticizing the settlements, something neither Trump nor Modi did publicly. But it was not done with the same passion one has come to expect…