Friedman's generally excellent column in the Times yesterday asks, essentially, why does Washington bother? I think it has become clear that Barack Obama wants to convene peace talks more than either Bibi or Abu Mazen want to go. I once tended to think that the absence of peace talks was worse than no peace talks at all; at least when people are talking they aren't shooting. The problem with this formula is that when the talking fails to get anywhere, catastrophic violence often erupts (see the Second Intifada for proof).
One small note, or not so small -- Tom tends to frame the recent (and generally-speaking unwise) American offer of $3 billion in F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in exchange for a 90-day extension of the settlement freeze as a gift America could not afford to give. But he doesn't mention that military aid to Israel, even heavily subsidized military aid (and to other countries, of course) is a form of stimulus spending, since that $3 billion was going to be used to buy American-made products. You would not look at $3 billion in jet fighters as a costly giveaway if you happened to be one of the thousands of people building those planes. This doesn't change the fact that the offer was shortsighted (really, what were American negotiators thinking?) But it wasn't quite the affront to the hard-up American taxpayer that Friedman makes it out to be.