A senior administration official briefing reporters last night after the conclusion of a dinner meeting of the Quartet members reported nothing. That is, there is no statement. There is no indication of progress in heading off the U.N. vote in September on Palestinian statehood. In fact, the official confessed “it is not clear what the Palestinians are seeking at the U.N.” He hastened to add that they still prefer direct negotiations. Oh really? Then why not return to the table?

It seems “gaps” remain between the parties. “More work is needed.” So there will be more meetings, beginning with one tomorrow. There is more discussion needed with the parties. There will be more meetings “at various levels.”

Yes, it might seem like the administration and its fellow Quarteters are entirely ineffective. But this is the best possible result, I would suggest. The less hectoring of Israel in public, the better for the U.S.-Israel relationship. The fewer pronouncements from Europeans who have already decided that they’d back the unilateral declaration at the United Nations, the better, I would think, if the goal is to promote bilateral negotiations.

The most one can say about the non-progress is that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who publicly worried about a “surprise” from the Quartet, can rest a little easier for now. It seems for present the ultimatums and “guidance” from the Quartet will be delivered in private.