Test of will
The smiles and optimistic pronouncements of participants at the Sharm El-Sheikh summit, and even its concluding statement, will prove hollow if they are not followed by action on the ground.
Everyone involved must now move on from expressing good intentions to the more difficult task of making real progress and restoring faith in the process itself. And there are signs that the atmosphere is conducive to making just such a positive leap.
Egypt is playing an increasingly important role on both the Palestinian-Israeli and Syrian tracks, reflecting President Mubarak's announcement that "if Palestinians can't make progress under Sharon then it's unlikely that any progress will be made at all, since if he wants, he can provide the solution."
Recent agreements between Egypt and Israel, including the Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) agreement and over border policing testify to the thaw in relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv. We should probably add to the list the fact that Egypt has agreed to host the Palestinian National Dialogue next March as well as news of the return of Egypt's ambassador to Tel Aviv in the coming few days.
Europe has also been strengthening its regional role. The French, German and Spanish foreign ministers have all visited the region while British Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts to lend the peace process momentum are ongoing.
But the most important player as far as building on the Sharm Al-Sheikh conference is concerned remains Washington. Middle Eastern issues currently dominate the agenda of the new administration, a fact underlined in Bush's State of the Union address delivered last Thursday.
Through its involvement in Iraq and its heavy military presence in the region the US appears at times to have become a Middle Eastern power and the days when it operated by proxy -- i.e. through Israel -- are long gone.
It became clear at Sharm El-Sheikh that it is the Palestinians rather than the Israelis who are making preparations for their post-conference responsibilities. Several announced -- and unannounced -- meetings were held in Cairo, Damascus and the West Bank to finalise a unified Palestinian position and establish rules for pan-Palestinian negotiations.
We now have an opportunity to put Sharm El-Sheikh's resolutions into action. The question remains, though, whether the parties most concerned will display the necessary will.