Over the weekend, the Washington Post's Scott Wilson published a long piece detailing the Obama administration's efforts to forge a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. In it, Wilson touches on the president's early thinking:
Obama’s view of the conflict broke from Bush’s approach, which he believed overtly favored Israel and damaged the United States’ ability to play the role of trusted mediator. Bush developed a close relationship with then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a Likud member for decades until breaking off to form a centrist party known as Kadima. He even took Sharon to his ranch in Crawford, Tex., before Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.
With what they viewed as mixed results from the Bush years, some Jewish leaders in the meeting that day disagreed with Obama’s assessment that only by creating some public distance with Israel could diplomatic progress be made with the Palestinians.
“The case he was trying to make was that the United States will be a better partner to Israel if it has more credibility with the Arab states, that we will be a better, more useful friend to Israel if we have more friends in the Arab world,” Rhodes said.
So now we have two case studies in the Bush and Obama approaches. One hugs Israel very tightly, the other tries to put some "public distance" between the two countries. Neither produced a negotiated settlement.
You have to believe, at this point, that the idea of fostering an enduring peace settlement between the two parties is beyond Washington's ability, and that such a reality is probably starting to sink in in Washington.