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Obama praises Abbas, but not Netanyahu in opinion piece published by Israeli newspaper

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FiLE: March 5, 2012: President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP)

President Barack Obama offered strong praise for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an opinion piece published Tuesday in an Israeli newspaper, but had little to say about the other key player in the crisis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

"In President Abbas, Israel has a counterpart committed to a two-state solution and security cooperation with Israel," Obama wrote in the daily Haaretz. The president offered no parallel praise for Netanyahu, who is only mentioned by name once in the piece. 

Obama's comments, published in Hebrew, Arabic and English, were his first public comments on Middle Eastern affairs since the murder of three Israeli teenagers last month touched off a new round of regional violence and deepening mistrust. 

After the bodies of the three Israelis were discovered, Obama issued a brief written statement, but hasn't spoken about the situation publicly. Haaretz said the op-ed was intended for the newspaper's upcoming peace summit. The White House told The Associated Press the op-ed was written before June 30 -- the day the three Israeli teens were found dead -- but later updated to reflect more recent events.

Writing in emotional terms, Obama said he couldn't imagine the pain suffered by the parents of the three Israeli teens, but was also heartbroken by the senseless murder of a Palestinian teenager who many suspect was killed as payback.

"All parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution," Obama said.

Obama didn't mention Tariq Abu Khdeir, the cousin of the murdered Palestinian, who was arrested after clashing with Israeli forces. The State Department has said it's "deeply troubled" by reports that Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian-American, was badly beaten while in custody.

Obama said the U.S. was disappointed that American-backed peace talks fell apart, but said the U.S. won't give up on peace.

"When the political will exists to recommit to serious negotiations, the United States will be there, ready to do our part," Obama said, later adding "For all that Israel has accomplished, for all that Israel will achieve, Israel cannot be complete and it cannot be secure without peace."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.