Later this year we will mark the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Middle East peace process at the Madrid conference. The conference, convened shortly after the Gulf War and the liberation of Kuwait, affirmed the principle of ‘land for peace' and United Nations resolutions 242 and 181 as the basis for the peace settlement in the region.

Twenty years later, however, Israel has managed with the help of its powerful ally, the United States, to reduce the entire peace process to a facade. It has gotten parts of the peace settlement as several Arab states have established diplomatic or trade ties with Tel Aviv. It has won the recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has given up the armed struggle against the ‘former' enemy.

But Israel has not given up any land. On the contrary, since the Madrid conference, the number of colonies in the West Bank has reached an unprecedented level. Occupied east Jerusalem has been besieged by colonies and its Palestinian residents are being forced to leave their homes.

Therefore, the hope of establishing an independent Palestinian state is fading away. The state, which as promised by the ‘honest' peace-broker, the US, should be established in 2011, will eventually be a ‘Facebook state' as predicted by Israel's deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon. It will be a virtual state; in the minds of those who think an international recognition of that state is enough to create it although it doesn't, and can't, exist on the ground.

Surely, the world remembers Madrid. But its inability to force Israel to abide by its commitment to the principles of that conference makes the peace talks meaningless.