In Israel, the last-minute diplomacy added a flourish to Obama's first visit to the Jewish state as president.
While the two nations have a key strategic partnership, with the United States supplying military aid and diplomatic support as Israel's most vital ally, Obama and Netanyahu had famously frosty relations during the president's first term.
With both beginning new terms after Obama's reelection last year and Netanyahu's recent formation of a new government, the president's visit was an opportunity to reset the relationship and signal unified positions on major issues such as the Middle East peace process and Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
Obama and Netanyahu met several times during the president's three days in Israel, which also included a state dinner where Israeli President Shimon Peres awarded him the country's highest civilian honor.
Before leaving Israel, Obama paid tribute to the father of modern Zionism in a symbolic visit to Theodor Herzl's grave.
Joined by Peres, Netanyahu and Kerry, Obama also visited the grave of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.
Obama placed a stone at each grave from the grounds of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington in a gesture to link the African-American struggle for freedom with the struggle by the Israeli people for a homeland.
The president also visited the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, where he turned up the "eternal flame" of remembrance of the millions of Jewish victims of Nazi death camps in World War II.
Fairness for the Palestinians
In Israel, Obama urged young Israelis in a speech to pressure their leaders to seek peace with Palestinians.
He asked Israelis to empathize with the plight of Palestinians, and he drew applause when he criticized the Israeli government's controversial policy of building new settlements in disputed territories.
During a visit with Abbas in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Obama stressed the need for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution.
"The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it," he said at a news conference with Abbas, adding that Palestinians deserve "a future of hope" and a "state of their own."
Abbas said the Israeli settlements are "more than a hurdle to peace," calling them illegal and saying it was Israel's duty to stop building them.
He envisioned a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as capital -- a scenario unacceptable to Israel.