When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed on US soil, he rushed to declare that it takes three to tango for peace in the Middle East: The Americans and the Israelis who are already dancing, and the Palestinians who are insisting on remaining wallflowers.
At the same time, however, the Central Bureau of Statistics released figures pointing to a massive increase of roughly 120 percent in settlement construction within the future Palestinian state's territory. As long as this is the situation, one can understand why Abbas and his men refuse to join the dance – and one can equally understand why American President Barack Obama's remarks Monday evening contained a strong whiff of despair.
Barack Obama did smile when he turned to the prime minister, but his expressions reflected his covert feelings: Indeed, there is still a possibility for the two-state solution in the Middle East, but this possibility will likely not be realized as long as Israel fails to find a leader who will jeopardize the stability of Netanyahu's seat.
It's reasonable to assume that during the private meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, the American president tried to get a commitment from the Israeli prime minister regarding additional compromises towards the Palestinians, the kind which will prolong the dying life of the peace negotiations – mainly a quiet construction freeze in the settlements outside the blocs, or perhaps the release of hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners.
Netanyahu, on his part, most likely repeated what he had already said to the cameras: Israel has been trying to negotiate with the Palestinians for 20 years, and has only been paying a heavy price in the form of suicide bombers and rockets. To be fair, he should have also noted that the Palestinian side has also paid a heavy price throughout the long years of the conflict, in the form of hundreds of thousands of refugees and a life under the occupation of a foreign state.
Obama, it seems, has completely adopted the Palestinian position. He sees the Palestinians as the weak side, and Israel led by Netanyahu as the aggressor which ignores basic principles of human rights.
On Monday, at least in front of the cameras – and perhaps even after his harsh remarks against him in an interview to the Bloomberg agency – Obama actually chose to embrace Netanyahu. It's possible, and that may be the most satisfactory explanation, that he was mostly preoccupied with the situation in Ukraine, and that in light of the intercontinental conflict taking shape, he is was willing to leave the Israeli prime minister alone.
This weekend, when Netanyahu returns to Israel, he will be able to present the warm words he heard from Obama and use them as proof for his good relations with Washington. But he will then discover that the tango still has to be performed – and that for that purpose he must reach understandings with the Palestinian dancer.