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Trip a start

Florida Voices
Published:   |   Updated: March 29, 2013 at 02:41 PM

This wasn't a trip that was going to please everybody. That's impossible in the tinderbox that is the Middle East.

And expectations for a real breakthrough weren't high. Not when there has been hatred and violence and no breakthrough for maybe 2,000 years.

But even with no substantial progress made toward peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, President Barack Obama's visit to Israel last week has to be considered a success — if for no other reason than he apparently thawed relations that had been frosty at best.

The Israel-United States relationship is critical to both sides and had deteriorated during Obama's first term. The president's criticism of Israeli settlements, and his statements about returning Israel to its borders before the 1967 Arab-Israel war, left him on less-than-friendly ground with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last week in Israel, in his first trip to the area since being elected president, Obama left no doubt about American support for the Jewish state and its right to exist and defend itself. He declared in a speech that Israel has unwavering U.S. support in its battle against extremist groups and its fight to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Palestinians were said to be unhappy because Obama didn't encourage more peace concessions from Israel. During the visit, there were widespread Palestinian protests in Ramallah. But Secretary of State John Kerry wisely continued the effort to restart peace talks by meeting with Israel and Palestinian leaders.

Centuries of hatred in the region weren't going to be washed away with one trip. But Obama seemed to win back the trust of many Israelis. Here's hoping that's a start toward substantial peace talks.

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