JERUSALEM -- History will record Tuesday's trilateral summit at the Waldorf Astoria hotel as the moment when U.S. President Barack Obama recognized that his initial strategy for bringing Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table had become counter-productive. Realizing he was on the wrong course, Obama began a gradual shift toward a less dramatic, less public, and potentially more successful route.
At the end of the gathering with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama sounded impatient and more than a little frustrated. If you listen carefully, there was a most definite change in tone and substance. Unlike previous statements about the parties involved, this time Obama actually sounded more frustrated with the Palestinians than with the Israelis. A new tenor of evenhandedness permeated his remarks. Perhaps Obama's frustrations were directed at himself, because he did much to tighten the knot he finds himself in.
An impatient Obama declared, "Simply put, it is past time to talk about starting negotiations -- it is time to move forward. It is time to show flexibility and common sense." Then came the changes in policy. Consider these two parallel assessments by Obama of the two sides' actions: