When the Quartet was unable to come up with a statement after Monday’s meeting, it wasn’t entirely clear where the “gaps” were that prevented a unified statement. But whatever the reason, peace process participants are struggling to conceal the obvious: the Quartet, and in turn the U.S., have largely loss control of events.

We read in the Jerusalem Post :

The Quartet envoy to the Middle East and former UK prime minister Tony Blair told Channel 2 news Thursday that Monday’s Quartet talks centering around renewing Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations were not a complete failure, and that in the face of “difficult issues” an agreement is more pressing than ever.

Once again, we see that the U.S. position has been so weakened that we lack the influence even to come up with a generic statement of support for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state that might have jump-started some discussion between the parties.

Meanwhile, the Arab League (our great partner in the Libyan war) has requested U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. All Foggy Bottom can do is complain:

An Arab League decision to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines would not serve the peace process, the US said on Thursday.

“We’ve been clear in our conviction that unilateral approaches to try to seek statehood via the United Nations will not lead to a comprehensive settlement,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told The Jerusalem Post in a statement. “That will only come via the hard give and take of negotiations and mutual agreement, and we are committed to working with the parties to pursue it that way.”

Although the General Assembly action may not be able to grant the Palestinians membership in the U.N., Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies cautions that serious consequences may follow. “Whenever the plates change, even a little bit,” he cautions, “there is usually violence.” And the Europeans who have blithely climbed on board the unilateral-declaration bandwagon seem unaware of (or indifferent to) the real potential for violence when Palestinian radicals, the day after the U.N. vote, decide it is time to murder Israelis and destroy Israeli property in the new Palestinian “state,” wherever they think that is.

The lack of a strong and effective U.S. presence in the region has predictable consequences. Troublemaking powers try to increase their influence. The threat of violence increases. Outside observers (be it China, the Taliban or the Iranians) perceive U.S. weakness. In other words, sometimes leading from behind is a real downer.