Obama listening to both sides, to reaffirm commitment to Israel in speech
(CBS News) President Barack Obama is in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday on the second day of his Middle East visit to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In Gaza, Palestinian militants fired four rockets into a southern Israeli town far from the president. One landed near a home, the other hit an open field. No one was hurt.
The White House deferred comment on the rocket launches, preferring not to give them added significance. Officials also said Hamas, which is the rival of the Palestinian Authority government based in Ramallah is intimidated and unnerved by Mr. Obama's presence in the region, thereby strengthening Mr. Obama's commitment to the Palestinian Authority president.
President Obama said he came to the West Bank to listen to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Listening is the best the American president can do when neither the Palestinian nor the Israelis have the political strength or inclination to restart peace talks.
Israel's security, to no one's surprise, dominated Mr. Obama's talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday. The president pledged to use military action, if needed, to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."All options are on the table. We will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world's worst weapons," he said.
For the first time, Netanyahu accepted Mr. Obama's timeline for Iran to produce a nuclear bomb -- one year. But there's still disagreement about the pace of Iran's enrichment of uranium. Israel wants to stop Iran before it's so close to making a bomb that military action might be too late.
Netanyahu said, "There's not a lot of time and every day that passes diminishes it, but we do have a common assessment on these schedules on intelligence."
Amid conflicting reports of chemical weapons use in the Syrian civil war, the president said the evidence was inconclusive, but he doubted Syrian claims that rebel forces attacked with chemical agents. Mr. Obama said, "I am deeply skeptical of any claim that in fact it was the opposition that used chemical weapons."
Both leaders worked hard to look and act more comfortable around each other - conspicuous effort to soften the image of a relationship built on necessity and undermined by animosity. They joked about each other's children with the president bringing up Netanyahu's sons.
Mr. Obama joked, "I did inform the prime minister that they are very good looking young men who clearly got their looks from their mother."
Netanyahu replied, "Well, I could say the same of your daughters."
"This is true," Mr. Obama said.
And Mr. Obama went out of his way to address the prime minister informally, using his nick\name "Bibi" as freely as if they were lifelong friends.
The president returns to Jerusalem Thursday for a much-anticipated speech at the convention center where the president will urge Israelis to re-engage in the peace process and also pledge again full U.S. commitment to the Israeli government in its dealing with the confrontation that may come with the government of Iran.
For Major Garrett's full report, watch the video in the player above.
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