Obama backtracking from muscling Israel?

Here are half  a dozen new important straws in the wind about Obama's convoluted Mideast maneuvers:

--George Mitchell arrives in Israel to try and restart negotiations after a month-long hiatus due to Obama's peremptory insistence that Israel freeze construction in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem as a pre-condition for negotiations.

--Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu simultaneously lets it be known that he has sent an official note to Obama rejecting any construction freeze in East Jerusalem.

--At the same time, Israel offers a few confidence-building measures to lure the Palestinians back to negotiations -- release of Palestinian prisoners, a reduced IDF footprint in the West Bank, wider Palestinian Authority security jurisdiction in and around major Palestinian population centers, a few moves to ease the economic blockade of Gaza.

--White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel tells Bloomberg Television that Obama has no intention to shortcut negotiations and impose his own peace plan.

--Obama himself sends a letter to Alan Solow, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, stressing that there can be no imposition of a peace deal from the outside, that a peace agreement can only be brought about by direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.  The letter to Solow, an old Chicago pal of the president, follows a letter from Solow to Obama expressing grave misgivings about the direction of Obama's Mideast policies.

--Obama blames ill-informed media chatter for creating a false impression that the White House was set to announce its own peace accord.  The president prefers to blame the media rather than his own ill-advised, bull-headed efforts to end the conflcit on his watch, preferably before 2012.

So what does this all mean?

From all appearances, it means that after weeks of internal White House debate and indecision, Obama finally stepped in and put an end -- at least for the time being -- to National Security Adviser James Jones' push to skip negotiations and go directly to a final-status peace deal.

If Jones, buttressed by a phalanx of former national security advisers, had prevailed, George Mitchell obviously would have been out of a job as Obama's Mideast peace envoy since Mitchell's assignment was to mediate negotiations.  Perhaps, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may also have been displeased that she was about to lose the Mideast portfolion to Jones and helped persuade Obama to step away from the brink.

Whatever the reason, it looks like Jones' trial balloon has fizzled out.  Score one for Netanyahu.