President Obama performed a feat of political jujitsu on Thursday, winning applause for his response to a heckler who interrupted him during a speech at a university in Jerusalem. The heckler shouted something about Jonathan Pollard, who's serving a life sentence in North Carolina for spying on the U.S. for Israel, and others in the audience booed and hissed. Obama, however, smiled and calmed the crowd, saying that such interruptions were part of a healthy debate. Then Obama got laughs by saying: "I have to say that we arranged for that because it made me feel at home. You know, I wouldn't feel comfortable if I didn't have at least one heckler."
"Well, that may not have been the reaction the heckler was hoping for," says Daniel Politi at Slate. "He heckled, President Obama turned on the charm, and got a standing ovation." That may be true, but Obama's in Israel to patch up his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and urge Israel and the Palestinians back to the bargaining table to talk peace. And, at least for a moment, the heckler changed the subject, calling attention to the movement to pardon Pollard, which is gaining momentum in Israel.