SDEROT, Israel -- On the trickiest day of Barack Obama's overseas campaign swing, he huddled with Israeli officials Wednesday and traveled by motorcade to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority leaders.
Obama's test has been to navigate through the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during visits to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, do nothing to inflame American Jewish voters and donors, and lay the foundations for relationships he will need if he is elected president.
The McCain forces have been measuring every word in this highly covered Obama tour, pouncing with glee when Obama incorrectly suggested at a press conference here that he was a member of the Senate Banking Committee. But compared with the high stakes in this region of the world -- and with Iran building a nuclear capability that is of prime concern to Israel -- the goof was minor.
The day included a visit to Yad Vashem, the nation's Holocaust memorial, where Obama, wearing a white yarmulke, laid a wreath of remembrance for the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis.
Obama met through the day with Israeli leaders including President Shimon Peres; Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the chief of the Labor Party; Benjamin Netanyahu, former prime minister and head of the Likud Party, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Making the short drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah in the West Bank in a fortified Volvo, Obama met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salim Fayyad. The Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas demanded the future U.S. administration exert pressure on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners.
In Sderot, Obama stood in front of a collection of spent shells arranged in the courtyard of a police station. Sderot has been depopulated by at least 10 percent as a result of residents fleeing Palestinian rockets.
At the press conference here, Obama was asked if he thought Israel should negotiate with the Hamas militant group.
"If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing," Obama said.
That's an answer the Israelis want to hear, and a pro-Israel tilt that plays well in the United States. But it gives the Palestinians pause.
Today, Obama is poised to make a near-dawn visit to the Western Wall before flying to Germany for the only public speech of his tour. And it is shaping up to be a doozy, with thousands expected in an outdoor park.