Gingerly trying to advance Mideast peace, President Obama declared today that the US is a "stalwart ally" of Israel but challenged the Israelis to stop settlement construction in the West Bank. Obama delivered his message—which came on the same day Israel refused a demand to freeze all construction—after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Obama struck a hopeful tone, saying he had pressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the matter only last week. "I think it's important not to assume the worst, but to assume the best," he said. The president made clear he expected commitments to be upheld by the Palestinians, too, including enhanced security in the West Bank. Said Abbas: "We are fully committed to all of our obligations."