This morning I reported on the non-progress of the Quartet. The good news, I suggested, was that they didn’t come up with anything. The bad news, however, from the Israeli perspective, may be that they didn’t come up with anything.

A source familiar with the thinking of top Israeli officials who spoke on background says that Israelis were relieved that there was no harsh directive aimed at the Jewish state. However, the source says that Israelis are concerned that there wasn’t consensus even to urge the parties to return to the bargaining table, the clearest way to avoid a U.N. vote. The source explained that as bad as the “peace process” has been under Obama’s auspices, the Israelis would prefer that to a showdown at the United Nations.

A Middle East hand, however, offers another perspective, suggesting that the U.N. route may be less attractive to the Palestinians than they initially thought. He explained that with a promised U.S. veto in the Security Council the Palestinians “realize they won’t get ‘statehood’ and membership, and too many serious countries are not with them. They realize all they will get is a better form of observer status.” A General Assembly vote could nevertheless still be used to wage legal battles against the Jewish state in international forums. In different circumstances the Palestinians might want to drop the whole thing and get back to the bargaining table. But of course, they’ve staked so much credibility on this stunt that they likely can’t back down now.

So we have a “peace process” that Israel doesn’t really favor but is better than the alternative and a U.N. vote that may do a fair amount of damage to the Palestinians (e.g. cut off U.S. aid) with little benefit to the Palestinians. Obama’s ability to dismay both sides is a thing to behold.