President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“Netanyahu has been able to get a bump every time he says no to the president. When he upbraided him in the Oval Office, he got a 10 percent rise in the Israeli public opinion. That is unheard of,” said Martin Indyk, Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel, during a roundtable discussion in Washington last week. “Netanyahu, [who] eats polls for breakfast, he knows very well what the standing of the president is and what his own standing is,” said Indyk, who predicted “a more pliant Netanyahu” more open to Obama’s suggestions on settlements and Palestine. [Politico]

THIS WILL come as no surprise to anyone except those people who never understood President Obama’s stance on settlements was as much for Israeli safety as it was for Palestinian rights.

President Obama, however, has his limits.

But there was also a sticking point. Last week, Peres agreed to take a petition to the U.S. president from leading Israeli intellectuals and public figures asking for the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard, currently serving his 28th year of a life sentence for spying against the U.S. A spokesman for the office of the Israeli president confirmed to The Daily Beast that Peres presented the petition to President Obama and the two discussed the matter. Obama, however, did not budge, according to two other Israeli officials. The president already last week told an Israeli television station that he would not release Pollard at this moment. Perhaps it shows that there are limits even to the closest of friendships. [The Daily Beast]

The only thing that matters is that Israel will continue to get massive military aid, backed by an assurance from a second term President Obama, with no political motive in sight, that he backs the defensive right of Israel, “by itself for itself,” being a critical way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to put it that means Israel needs no one’s permission to do what they feel is needed in a treacherous Middle East where they often stand alone.

Eli Lake has the report.

When asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd why so many Israelis did not seem to like Obama, Netanyahu said he would hope the people of his country would “get to know Obama, the way I know Obama.”

Netanyahu also affirmed that his new government is fully committed to negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinians. This might be news to some members of the more right-wing parties that have supported more building within settlements on the West Bank, a policy opposed by successive U.S. administrations.

But most importantly, Netanyahu said he trusts President Obama when it comes to Iran. “I am absolutely convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” he said. “I also appreciate the fact that the president has reaffirmed more than any other president Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, by itself for itself. That sums up our common view.”

President Obama has arrived in Ramallah. From the pool report [minor typographical glitches amended]:

The arrival was an open press event after we were told it was pool only. President Abbas walked towards POTUS’s motorcade to greet him on a red carpet accompanied by few advisers. A huge banner hang on a wall facing the President’s limo read “Palestinian State”, next to it the word UN on printed pictures of President Yasser Arafat and President Abbas. POTUS and President Abbas viewed the guards of honor after a military band played both US and Palestinian national anthems. POTUS walked towards the Palestinian delegation led by Prime minister Salam Fayad , they exchanged few words but too far from reporters to hear. Among the Palestinians greeting the POTUS was Taieb abdul Rahim, general advisor to the President, Saeb Erikat, chief negotiator, and Maen Erikat, Palestinian representative to the US. The Palestinians greeting POTUS were 21 in total according to a list of names I saw. On the American delegation, Secretary Kerry and Micheal Rantney the US consular general were spotted.

The band kept playing national songs and a special one for Ramallah long after POTUS and President Abbas departed.

UPDATE 2: Obama made a direct peace appeal to the Israeli people in speech to Israeli university students in Jerusalem. Reuters:

President Barack Obama appealed directly on Thursday to the Israeli people to put themselves in the shoes of stateless Palestinians and recognize that Jewish settlement activity in occupied territory hurts prospects for peace.

In a showcase speech in Jerusalem to Israeli university students, Obama coupled his plea with an acknowledgement of the Jewish state’s security concerns in a region destabilized by the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran and civil war in Syria

But he urged Israel’s younger generation to demand that their politicians take risks for peace in an address interrupted frequently by applause, including a standing ovation for the president during a brief outburst by a heckler.

“You must create the change that you want to see,” he told his youthful audience.

[...] “Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine,” he said.

UPDATE: The best description of what’s going on during this trip was given by Jeffrey Goldberg, who called the visit “Operation Desert Schmooze.”