Obama trip seen as 'preemptive kiss to Israeli people' ahead of tough peace talks

The peace process has been on ice for the past three years over deep disagreements over the borders of a future Palestinian state and Israeli settlements. Recent Israeli elections that have weakened Netanyahu's conservative Likud party and given centrist former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni a key role in peace talks have renewed hopes for a deal, however.

The White House has set low expectations for immediate results from Obama's visit to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.

“I'm sure that any time the president and prime minister have a discussion and certainly any time the president has a discussion with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, that those issues are raised,” spokesman Jay Carney said about reigniting peace talks. “But that is not the purpose of this visit.”

Ben-Ami said he agreed with that approach.

“Expectations are low, and I think that's appropriate,” he said. He pointed out that there could be “no concrete initiative, because the groundwork hasn't been laid” and said that both Obama and Netanyahu's new national security teams will be newly installed when the two leaders meet.

“The key will be the follow-through after the trip,” he said, particularly Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryLobbying world Kerry: Trump not pursuing 'smart' or 'clever' plan on North Korea Tillerson will not send high-ranking delegation to India with Ivanka Trump: report MORE's efforts to “quietly build an international support for an initiative to see what he can do with both sides.”