Dumb Idea No. 4: Obama's push for a settlement freeze
Rarely has any U.S. president committed more of a stumble during his first year than when Barack Obama decided to make Israeli settlements the focus of his approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking.
In one fell swoop, the president set himself up for failure, turned his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into a macho contest of who had bigger cojones (Obama lost), and alienated the Palestinians and the Arabs because he backed down. And for all this, the United States succeeded in getting no real freeze, no deal, and no negotiations. The president's tough rhetoric on settlements only made the problem worse as the gap between words and deeds swallowed his credibility whole.
Fighting with the Israelis is an occupational reality for any president or secretary of state who wants to do serious peacemaking. The fight, however, needs to be at the right time and on the right issue. If done correctly (i.e., with a strategy), it can actually be productive and benefit not only the United States, but the Israelis and Palestinians too.
The fight worth having, with both sides, is over the actual substance of an agreement. But given the gaps that separate the two sides and Obama's own indecision about what he wants, that fight isn't worth having. Yet.