The summit serves, first and foremost, to provide the Obama administration with a much sought photo-op: Three leaders shaking hands, seemingly getting back to negotiations. This would come against the backdrop of the White House's resounding failure to force Israel's agreement to a complete settlement freeze or to persuade Arab states to make even tentative steps toward normalization with Israel, so a picture of the three leaders together will look like an extraordinary achievement. It might even help Obama and his administration to get the stalled peace process moving, however slowly.It seems to me worse than a sham. I could be wrong, since the general public isn't privy to each and every detail about the negotiations, but so far as I've been able to follow, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were chugging merrily along for a couple of years, albeit without reaching agreement, until about a year ago when the Palestinians decided to wait and see who would win the elections in the US and Israel. When Obama won they hoped for greater American pressure on Israel, and when Netanyahu ended up as Israeli prime minister, these hopes rose more: Surely Obama would put pressure on Netanyahu to be more forthcoming to the Palestinians.
This is precisely the reason why the PA realized that although Abbas set the precondition of a complete settlement freeze, as the United States demanded, he must now, according to that demand, rescind his condition without getting anything in return. The talks Abbas held in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and in Jordan with King Abdullah II brought home to him just how desperately the Americans need this summit.
Obama obliged by requiring a settlement freeze, a position eagerly adopted by the Palestinians who now insist there can be no negotiations without one, even though such negotiations were previously the norm. The Americans thought they could simply change the terms of negotiations. We're big, we can dictate, they seemed to believe.
The world doesn't work that way, as you'd think everybody knows.
The Obama position meant pretending Bush-era committments had never happened - a blatant untruth; and it demanded of the Israelis a major change of policy regarding East Jerusalem. So far as I'm aware no Israeli government has ever accepted any curb on construction in East Jerusalem. It's conceivable that Israel might agree to some partition of Jerusalem as part of a full peace agreement with the Palestinians. It's not conceivable that Israel would accept such an outcome as a precondition for the resumption of talks.
Once the Americans staked their position, the Palestinians couldn't demand less, with the result that negotiations are now impossible; they haven't been happening since last September, and seem unlikely to happen anytime soon.
If this reading is true, it's mostly the doing of the American administration. Bravo!