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POLITICS: PennAve

For White House, even small victories prove elusive in Gaza, Ukraine

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Russia,National Security,PennAve,Middle East,Vladimir Putin,Ukraine,Gaza

The White House this week will attempt to dial down tensions in both Gaza and Ukraine, as those conflicts rage on with little notice of U.S. efforts to limit the bloodshed there.

Deployed to the Middle East in search of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Secretary of State John Kerry was unable to find even a short-term solution amenable to both parties.

And in the wake of the downing of a passenger jet in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has brushed off President Obama's warnings about additional punishments against the Kremlin for its role in the episode.

Obama’s frustrations with the dueling crises are beginning to show.

In a tense phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, the president called for an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”

Right now, both Israel and Hamas see little reason to heed Obama’s request.

As for the Ukrainian crisis, the Obama administration is expected to put forward additional sanctions against Russia later this week for the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine.

“We still think that the best thing the United States can do is send a message to Russia through very strong sanctions, coordinated with the Europeans," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, told CNN on Sunday. "And I’d expect in the coming days, you will see the Europeans move out on stronger sanctions.”

Critics contend that the situation in Ukraine has deteriorated because the president hasn’t been more assertive in deterring Putin. The White House counters that a series of limited sanctions has had an effect but that work remains to be done.

Against the backdrop of those major foreign conflicts, the White House also will look to move forward on its domestic agenda. The administration will pressure Congress to make a deal to address the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border -- but a breakthrough appears unlikely before a scheduled congressional recess on Friday.

Obama on Monday also is scheduled to participate in the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders and give the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities award at the White House.

On Wednesday, the president will hold an economic event in Kansas City, Mo.

Rounding out his week, Obama Thursday will give a speech at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and host a ceremony to honor the anniversary of the Special Olympics.

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner

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