Obama's Goodwill Israel Tour Sows Seeds of Hope

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Day two of President Obama's visit started at the Israel Museum, where he viewed the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. So far as Israel is concerned, things seem to be going well.

One commentator remarked, "If this is the way we greet Obama, what's left for the Messiah?" Any previous animosity between Obama and Netanyahu appears to be gone.

"I think the Israeli people are very happy with President Obama getting off to a new second start with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I think that's very important, and I think that's a more realistic appraisal of the Middle East," Michael Widlanski, author of Battle for our Minds, told CBN News.

Has President Obama addressed the Iranian threat sufficiently during this visit? Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, offers more insight on that and more, on CBN Newswatch, March 21.

Behind the photo ops, the good will and the massive security are the major issues facing these two nations -- the civil war in Syria, no negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and the most serious issue of all, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

"All the options are on the table," Obama said. "We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world's worst weapons."

The two leaders also discussed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

"Israel remains fully committed to peace and to the solution of two states for two peoples," Netanyahu said. "We extend our hand in peace and in friendship to the Palestinian people."

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell shared his perspective on the apparent thawing in President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu's relationship. Click play below for his comments.

Meanwhile, Obama has been saying all the right things.

"I hope it's more than just trying to curry favor with the Israeli population," Widlanski said. "I hope it's a realization that Israel has legitimate needs and the United States has to be more cognizant of them when making its own national security interests."

But Palestinians see the growing U.S.-Israeli ties as a bad sign for them, and they're not happy about the president's visit.

Early Thursday, Palestinians launched rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip just ahead of the president's trip to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leaders.

Widlanski said Obama's visit sends a message to regimes in the area.

"He realizes now that in the sea of sand in the Middle East, Israel is the only anchor Western democracies have," Widlanski said.

"He's made a lot of mistakes," he continued. "Syria, Egypt, Jordan is destabilizing, Turkey's a morass. He realizes that there's only one place he can rely on for good news and forward progress. That's Israel. That's a pragmatic decision by an ideological man, and I think that's a good move," Widlanski said.

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Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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