JERUSALEM, Israel -- Just after 7:00 a.m. Thursday, residents of the southern Israeli city of Sderot rushed to bomb shelters after the all-too-familiar air raid sirens sounded.
Two rockets fell in the city, one damaging a home, but no one was injured. Another rocket set a field on fire in a kibbutz in the Sha'ar HaNegev region. At least two others never made it to Israel, blowing up in Gaza instead.
About the same time, President Obama prepared for day two of his three-day visit to Israel, which began with a firsthand look at the Dead Sea Scrolls and a high-tech exhibit at Jerusalem's Israel Museum.
Afterward, the president traveled by helicopter to Ramallah for a working lunch with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and other officials, followed by a tour of a youth center with P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
During yesterday's joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president made reference to Palestinian rocket fire, saying "some sort of clear settlement" must help "Israel to feel that the possibilities of rockets raining down on their families has diminished."
"No rose colored glasses here," noted Dr. Aaron Lerner, founder and CEO of IMRA (Independent Media Review and Analysis).
"We retreat. There is a sovereign Palestinians state. But I am not going to tell you Israelis that there will actually be peace in return for this. Oh no. Just lower odds that rockets are going to slam into your house," Lerner said.
"On second thought, what a refreshing and bold observation," he continued. "This is a dramatic departure from the mindset of supporters of a Palestinian state, who naively think that a deal would herald utopian peace such that security arrangements are not a truly important matter."
What the president didn't mention is the long-sought-after reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, the Gaza-based offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Neither did he speak of the growing influence of Hamas in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), where the world envisions a future Palestinian state. That eventuality could put more than southern Israel in Palestinian rocket range.
Meanwhile, anti-U.S. demonstrators in Ramallah protested again today.
Overnight, Palestinians in Bethlehem burned U.S. flags. On Tuesday, they tore down and burned a poster of Obama. At midday Friday, the president plans to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem before departing for closing ceremonies at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
From there, he heads to Jordan for meetings with King Abdullah II, accompanied by Secretary of State John Kerry who returns to Israel Saturday night for more talks.