Actually, I didn't know there was a Middle East peace conference taking place in Madrid. But at least three has-beens sent greetings: Mikhail Gorbachev, James Baker and Bill Clinton, who looks back at the Oslo festival on the White House lawn in 1993 as something of a triumph. What it was, of course, was a sham that kept the peace process breathing until it blew up in Clinton's face at Camp David in the fall of 2000. No, Arafat would not accept basically everything he had asked for.
Who knows what animates Gorbachev? Maybe he hopes just to be remembered. He won't be. Certainly not by the Russian people. A passing figure. Not even one on whom American colleges will bestow honorary degrees.
As for Baker, this was a reminder of the first peace venture in Madrid in 1991, therefore aptly titled "Madrid Plus 15." That means starting with zero and 15 years of fraud and fakery thereafter. As for Baker-Hamilton, it has disappeared like a mirage in the desert.
None of the relevant governments have sent serious representatives. Except for Denmark, Sweden and Norway, who make peace processing their lapidarian vocation. Not even the Spanish government sent anybody official, even though Prime Minister Zapatero and Foreign Minister Moratinos "have been vocal in recent months in their calls to advance peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians." What exactly do the Spaniards bring to the table? Their unhappy experience with North African Arabs? Their dreams of imperial residue across the Mediterranean make them intrinsically anti-Israel. Hey, maybe they'll succeed with ETA, the Basque terrorist organization. Then they might say, we know how to do this sort of thing. But Spain has been mired in violent conflict with ETA for decades. And actually with Al Qaeda now, too. Does the socialist government of Spain think that maybe if the Israelis settle with the Palestinians, the Muslims will forget about Andalucia?