Will grandstanding in Warsaw help or hinder Netanyahu?
Opinion: The 1996 Sharm El Sheikh conference was meant to help Shimon Peres keep his PM's chair and save the peace process. The 2019 conference on 'peace and security in the Middle East' has similar objectives, but unlike the Sharm summit, there are no world leaders coming to Netanyahu's aid in the Polish capital.
In March 1996, the chances of then-prime minister Shimon Peres of winning reelection later that year dropped significantly. The White House was terrified: Peres losing the elections, President Bill Clinton's advisors feared, could be the downfall of the entire Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
In panic, the Americans convened an impressive "peacemakers summit" that very same month in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. It was attended by presidents and heads of states from about 30 countries, including from the Gulf, and even the Chinese showed up with a respectable delegation. At the end of the summit, the peacemakers released a joint statement against Islamic terrorism and its agents from Tehran.
What followed was disappointment. Peres lost the elections, and Iran didn't change its ways. The peacemakers' summit had no concrete achievements to show for their efforts.
Twenty-three years later, under different circumstances, the White House is convening an international conference in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, for "peace and security in the Middle East," with objectives very similar to those of the Sharm El Sheikh summit: take a stand against terrorism, against terror supporters in Iran, and in favor of the incumbent Israeli prime minister.
There are some differences, however, and it's not just in the diplomatic upheavals or the snow-mixed-with-rain that welcomed the conference attendees who arrived in Warsaw on Thursday. Prime ministers and the heads of world powers did not flock to this conference, with the exception of US Vice President Mike Pence and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It is being boycotted by two world powers—Russia and China—and by some important players in the Middle East, namely the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are sending low-rank politicians after considering, until the last moment, to skip it altogether. In general, mostly foreign ministers were sent to Warsaw.
The question of whether Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely could have represented Israel in this conference and reap the same success as Netanyahu will remain open—until the elections.