Obama knows that peace talks are going nowhere. First, because there is no way that Israel can sanely make concessions while its neighborhood is roiling and unstable — the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt, rockets being fired from Gaza, Hezbollah brandishing 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel, civil war raging in Syria with its chemical weapons and rising jihadists, and Iran threatening openly to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Second, peace is going nowhere because Abbas has shown Obama over the last four years that he has no interest in negotiating.
Obama's message to Abbas was blunt: Come to the table without preconditions, i.e., without the excuse of demanding a settlement freeze first.
Obama himself had contributed to this impasse when he imposed that precondition — for the first time ever in the history of Arab-Israeli negotiations — four years ago.
And when Israel responded with an equally unprecedented 10-month settlement freeze, Abbas didn't show up to talk until more than nine months in — then walked out, never to return.
In Ramallah, Obama didn't just address this perennial Palestinian dodge. He demolished the very claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace.
Palestinian sovereignty and Israeli security are "the core issue," he told Abbas.
"If we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved."
Finally. Presidential validation of the screamingly obvious truism: Any peace agreement will produce a Palestinian state with not a single Israeli settlement remaining on its territory. Any settlement on the Palestinian side of whatever border is agreed upon will be demolished.
Thus, any peace that reconciles Palestinian statehood with Israeli security automatically resolves the settlement issue. It disappears.
Yes, Obama offered the ritual incantations about settlements being unhelpful. Nothing new here. He could have called them illegal or illegitimate.
It wouldn't have mattered — because Obama officially declared them irrelevant.
Exposing settlements as a mere excuse for the Palestinian refusal to negotiate — that was the news, widely overlooked, coming out of Obama's trip. It was a breakthrough.
Will it endure? Who knows?
But when an American president so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause tells Abbas to stop obstructing peace with that phony settlement excuse, something important has happened.
Abbas, unmasked and unhappy, knows this better than anyone.
Krauthammer's email is lett...@charleskrauthammer.com.