Obama's Middle East Plan
WASHINGTON - The road to Middle East peace always travels through the White House - even when, as in 1993, it was Norwegian negotiators who made it all possible!
In the coming days the president will greet the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders and on 4 June make a speech in Cairo aimed at winning over the Arab world.
Nobody is quite sure about the timings but at some stage before, during, or after the Cairo visit, Mr Obama is expected to call for a Middle East peace conference.
It will mark a significant shift in diplomatic emphasis - putting the search for solutions onto the wider level, involving countries like Jordan, Syria and Egypt, instead of just leaving it to the Israelis and Palestinians as the last administration often did.
This "comprehensive" approach to regional peace is not a new idea, but you have to look back to the Madrid peace conference of 1991 to find the last time it was really given a try.
Back then George Bush Snr's administration strong-armed a right wing Israeli government to the table by withholding US loans. The Madrid conference, by the way, was not a great success, but it did set the scene for the 1993 Oslo agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Quite a few observers feel that history may repeat itself, not just in diplomats taking the search for peace to a regional level but also in producing a bust up between the US and Israel.
Mr Netanyahu came to power earlier this year on a wave of right wing, nationalistic, support following his country's fight with Hamas in Gaza. Many in his party and wider coalition have set their faces against any concessions to the Palestinians.
Mr Obama on the other hand is a man proud of the fact he spent part of his childhood living in a Muslim-majority country (Indonesia), and who believes he has an urgent political duty to reach out to the peoples of the Middle East.
King Abdullah of Jordan has warned recently that time is short for the new president to convince the Arab public that he is ready to overturn former President George W Bush's pro-Israeli policies.
So will we see fireworks today at the White House? A newly empowered president telling a wily Israeli political maneouvrer that the rules of the game have been changed?
It probably won't happen today, but many think it is coming.
It is in Mr Obama's interest to signal soon and publicly the new realities of the US/Israeli relationship. How else will he convince the Arab world?
Equally it may be in Mr Netanyahu's interest to show his coalition partners that he is being pressured into attending a Middle East peace conference, where Israel can expect the condemnation of serried ranks of its neighbours.
Flak from the right
The Israelis have already been deploying delaying tactics prior to this meeting. They insist its main purpose is to discuss what the two countries should do about the Iranian nuclear issue.
They have also implied that Mr Netanyahu cannot go the whole way in conceding full Palestinian statehood.
Mr Obama will underline his commitment to finding a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue that would prevent the use of force.
But as to Mr Netanyahu's reluctance to embrace the two state solution, we can expect the US president to pressure him into a rapid change of position.
The acceptance of previous Israeli governments of this principle will make it hard for the prime minister to hold out for too long, and it appears that Mr Netanyahu, mindful of the flak it may earn him from the right, is trying to do no more than buy himself time.