Immediately after his arrival in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured an Iron Dome battery at Ben Gurion International Airport in a vivid display of U.S. security assistance to Israel.
Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 after ousting the rival Palestinian Fatah group in bloody street fighting. Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas, now govern only part of the West Bank.
In contrast to Israel, the Palestinians have shown little excitement over the Obama visit. In the run-up to the visit, demonstrators have defaced and destroyed posters of Obama in an expression of dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in the region.
In Jerusalem earlier Thursday, while examining the Dead Sea Scrolls and during a tour of a high tech exhibit, Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued the easy banter that the two leaders displayed on Wednesday. As Netanyahu read a facsimile of a scroll, Obama marveled that the Hebrew language had not changed much over the centuries.
Before the tech exhibit he was serenaded by Israeli singer Dudu Fisher and he later examined a range of inventions, from a snake robot ("My wife would not like this," Obama declared) to a motorized exoskeleton for people with paralysis of the legs.
Lee reported from Jerusalem. Karin Laub in Ramallah and Ian Deitch and Josef Federman contributed to this report.