My initial reading of Obama's speech this afternoon is that he is learning.
The first two thirds, where he rattled on about the Arab Spring and so on, had all the right words, most of which he forgot to use in Cairo two years ago, and very little substance.
The section about Israel and Palestine seemed pretty good to me. On the clearly bright side, he ticked the following boxes: Israel as a Jewish state (twice), Israel's need for security, a demilitarized Palestine, and the silliness of the forthcoming September Spectacle which will do no-one any good. He also seemed to be saying, at least once, that the descendents of the Palestinian refugees will move to Palestine, implying they won't move to Israel.
On the dark side, he claimed once again that the present situation is unsustainable. Since it's been sustained, one way or the other, for 44 years, or 63, depending upon how you define it, it's hard to know what he means. Had he said it shouldn't be sustained, that would be different: that would be setting a goal. But can't be sustained? How so? He also castigated the ongoing construction in the settlements, which is disappointing because you'd think the president of the United States would have someone around him to explain that there's almost no construction going on. People who read the NYT can be fooled all the time, but isn't the President supposed to be briefed each morning by an assortment of spooks, analysts other types who get paid to really know what they're talking about?
Then there were the gray parts, where different Israelis would have differing interpretations as to whether his speech was positive or negative. He said the partition would be based on the line of 1949-67. Many of us recognize that this may not be historically, legally or morally the case, but practically, it is. Like it or not, that's the line the negotiations have been focusing on for years, and as the man said, there will be adaptation of it, but it does serve as the base of the negotiations.
His direct contradiction of Netanyahu's position of let's wait and wait some more, will trouble Netanyahu and his fans, but is actually plausible. We should hurry up, because there's nothing to be gained by waiting. Or is there anything to be gained by being passive while the world around us is active.
Most significant of all in my mind was that Obama did not repeat the universally silly line about how peace can be achieved anytime soon. On the contrary, he resoundingly forgot to mention Jerusalem, except to say that it will need to be talked about some other time, as will the Right of Return. In effect, his speech adopted the position of Avigdor Lieberman (and most Israelis) about moving towards a partial resolution of the conflict rather than a final resolution.
Update: It occurs to me he also seemed to say the Palestinians have some explaining to do about their new unity government with Hamas. Tick that box, too.
He has learned something these past two years. Good for him.