What was Europe's interest in Israel's military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Working to halt Israel's military onslaught, thereby saving Hamas, or letting Israel achieve its goals at the cost of hundreds of lives? The former contradicts Europe's official position on Hamas - it is a proscribed terrorist organisation, whose al-Aqsa TV station was banned from France's main satellite carrier. The EU also accepts the Quartet's formula of no talks with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognises Israel and embraces the Oslo Accords as a basis for negotiations. A ceasefire that left Hamas standing would repudiate all of the above and overnight turn it into a player the international community could no longer ignore, let alone ostracise. But the latter approach would put Europe on the side of the media-designated aggressor, in a war depicted - no fact-checking needed - as one of the worst humanitarian crises of our times.
And so, characteristically, Europe did both - it criticised Israel's "disproportionate response" but went on to engage in an elaborate diplomatic dance that started late, progressed slowly, achieved nothing and ended up becoming a cover for Israel to continue. Arab governments, famous for saying one thing while doing (or supporting) the opposite, could not have done better.
This is a case of squaring the circle. Even as Europe was swept by one of the coldest winters on record, demonstrators took to the streets to demand swift action, showing their genuine outrage at the inability of their leaders to stop the killing and the suffering. As Timothy Garton Ash said in the Guardian, "The Gaza war is a negation of every principle for which Europe claims to stand." How could EU leaders contradict the street and the laureates of Oxford? And yet, they should have.