The first day of President Obama’s visit to Israel was full of pomp, circumstance and familiarity with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who even joked at one point about the two leaders going barhopping together in Tel Aviv.
But “Operation Desert Schmooze,” as The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg called it, shifted tone Thursday as the president turned his focus to a more serious matter: the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
First, President Obama met with Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, where he declared that the U.S. was “deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine,” adding that Palestinians “deserve an end to occupation” and a “state of their own.”
Later in the day, the president addressed a group of Israeli students with a similar message:
“…Peace is necessary…Peace is just…the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes…Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”
Where past efforts have failed, could President Obama work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach a peace deal?
The New Republic’s Ben Birnbaum joined the NOW with Alex Wagner panel from Tel Aviv on Thursday to discuss the prospects of peace in the Middle East.