Stop, Rewind, Play Again
January 22, 2003

Sharon is a masterful chess player, able with one sweeping move to checkmate the Europeans. Scratching their heads, the three 'irrelevant' members of the Quartet will likely concede defeat and ask for a rematch, rather than attempt a bold and defiant countermove that would diminish Sharon's standing in the international political arena. Nestled in his American haven, Sharon's blunt dismissal of the Quartet gives rise to a defining moment for the EU: will it remain in the shadows, acquiescing to US demands and sidelined by Israel, or step up to its potential as a superpower with undeniable influence on world affairs.

"The Quartet is nothing! Don't take it seriously." Languishing under US leadership, or, more appropriately lack thereof, sabotaged by Sharon at every opportunity, comprised of divergent and clashing views and with no clear results, Sharon's comments would at first appear accurate. However, the culprit preventing any progress and allowing the conflict to play into Sharon's hands is none other than the founder of the Quartet, the United States.

As far as the Bush administration is concerned, the Quartet is nothing more than a mechanism diverting the blame for any blunders in Middle East policy and if it attempts to pay more than lip service, American officials are quickly remindful that there are "essential" differences between Washington and the rest of the Quartet. This is often followed by the Europeans redrafting the language of the peace roadmap so that it demands more of the Palestinians than it does of Israel and thereby indirectly allowing everything to go according to Sharon's plans.

Arafat's removal, the imposition of a Washington or Israeli puppet leader and an absolute halt to violence by every single Palestinian individual against Israelis are but a few of the preconditions set before a plan for peace might be seriously considered by Israel. Yet America claims that it does not want to force anything on the parties that the parties are unwilling to embrace. Translation: we will not force Israel to do anything it does not want, but if Palestinians are serious about their independence they better do everything Israel orders them to do.

Foreign diplomats hope that after the Israeli elections, America will revitalize the Quartet and adopt the roadmap, after what promises to be countless rewrites. Israel will then give its official line that it approves of the roadmap in principle, whatever that means, but sees certain elements as "unacceptable", mainly that a Palestinian state may eventually be established. Press stop, rewind, and press play again! This will not come to an end unless the EU realizes that it has the means and power to influence Israel and does not need to continue taking a beating from Sharon or be constantly ridiculed by the US.