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Stand up for Israel when it counts

Crisis in the Ukraine edged to the sidelines, if only temporarily, the often misguided focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, as Valdimir Putin pushed Ukraine around, President Barack Obama hosted meetings in the last couple of weeks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It was pretty much more of the same: Abbas rejecting the Jewish state, and the White House and State Department trying to act tough with Netanyahu.

It began a few days before Netanyahu arrived in Washington with Obama giving an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View that took what most observers agreed was a hard line with the Israeli leader. Obama said time was running out to reach a two-state deal, challenged Netanyahu by saying, “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” and obsessed on Israeli construction in the disputed West Bank territories.

Obama was not so confrontational with Netanyahu in the public part of their meeting March 3 as the Ukraine crisis was mushrooming. But Obama again stressed the time issue, noting an April deadline loomed in Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations to produce a framework for further talks.

There was no pre-meeting lecturing interview for Abbas. Obama welcomed Abbas to the White House Monday as a man of peace who had rejected violence. But the president made no mention of what Netanyahu correctly described as the “incessant Palestinian incitement against Israel’’ that doesn’t prepare the Palestinian people for the hard decisions needed for peace and can only encourage those who do practice terrorism.