It was also the first time in five years the two neighbors met face to face.
When Netanyahu is not weekending at his beach house in Caesarea or Abbas resting at his hilltop villa in Amman, the two antagonists live about 10 miles apart.
Their last handshake occurred in September 2010. That was two "peace processes" ago, when the leaders parlayed at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Those talks fizzled.
During Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s nine months of talks, the two leaders never met. Those talks collapsed, too, in another round of bitter recriminations.
Israeli news and social media were filled with images of the two gripping hands during the “family” portrait taken of world leaders at the beginning of the conference. Palestinian news sites also carried the photo, but much less so.
Israelis and Palestinians might not have immediately recognized the man who appears in the middle of the photograph. He is Ikililou Dhoinine, president of the island nation of Comoros.
At first, Netanyahu’s office chose not to highlight the meeting, briefing reporters instead on the prime minister’s separate sideline chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama.
After the photo of the apparent ice-breaking began to circulate, the prime minister issued a statement explaining himself. "I am in the group photo, there is a protocol. It is important that the world see that we are always ready to talk," Netanyahu said. "But on the other side, I have no illusions about Abu Mazen," everyone's nickname for Abbas.
Netanyahu went on to say that he told Obama that Abbas is inciting terror and spreading lies about Israel's intentions at a holy site in Jerusalem. "President Obama told me that he intends to discuss this with Abu Mazen, that he agrees with me that this must stop."
It didn't end nicely, after all.
A few hours after the handshake, Abbas urged the world leaders to protect Palestinians from Israel.
“Our resources are being usurped, our trees are being uprooted, our agriculture is being destroyed,” Abbas said.
Palestinian assailants with knives, guns and vehicles have killed at least 19 Israelis in a wave of violence over the last two months. Almost 100 Palestinians have been killed, either at the scenes of attacks or in violent demonstrations. In some cases, Palestinians charge protesters and others were killed in summary executions.