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Obama needs to do his homework on Israel-Palestine

In the realms of the Middle East, to hold a snap Israeli-Palestinian summit like this one on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly is the grade-school equivalent to staying up late watching David Letterman and trying to do your homework on the bus.

You can get away with it once or twice, but it will catch up to you.

Next thing you know a war will break out between the two sides and this administration will be saying the dog ate my homework.

President Obama set the Middle East as a top priority during the campaign. He determinedly set himself a part from President George W. Bush who ignored the conflict and watched it spiral out of control. But in the last year, Obama got, well, a bit distracted by the Great Recession and by a war in Afghanistan that is going south.

So it is understandable that he is a bit late to the bargaining table with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But the president is delusional if he thinks that Tuesday's gathering will have any impact. And he is staying up too late watching himself on the “Late Show” if he thinks he can throw the two sides together and proclaim any progress. Pulling them together, as Obama did Tuesday, to reluctantly shake hands with forced smiles is not a step forward, but a step backward.

There are very tough issues to confront in Israel-Palestine — particularly the expansion of Jewish settlements and the still simmering divisions between Palestinian Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank — and they deserve more focused attention.

For this assignment, President Obama gets a C-minus.