WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Report From The Middle East: Part One. “President Obama fell into a trap when he made a settlement freeze a precondition for talks. Secretly, both Israelis and Palestinian leaders are, I think, delighted that the US is now so tangled up in this demand that it has lost most of its influence over negotiations. The Palestinians are happier than the Israelis; it looks to world opinion as if it is Israeli intransigence on the settlement issue that is the chief obstacle to peace. But the Israeli government — while angry at Obama for making them look even worse than usual to much of the world — is also relieved that the settlement demand is so unpopular in Israel that Prime Minister Netanyahu pays no domestic political price for rejecting it.”