Finally, on Wednesday, President Obama made his first official visit to Israel. With this richly symbolic state visit, he delivered a message of solidarity to a wary Israeli public, and a promise to defend Israel from threats near and far.
“Shalom,”Mr. Obama said after embracing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, who waited for him on a red carpet under the shadow of Air Force One at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.
“I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations,” he said.
Shortly after he landed in the Holy Land, President Obama took a minute to explain why this trip is so important for both the American and the Israeli people, reports the official White House blog.
President Obama’s visit began with an arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion airport, followed by an inspection of the Iron Dome Battery defense system in Tel Aviv.
The tone was set at the airport, when Mr. Obama invoked the Jewish people’s 3,000-year history in this land, referring to modern Israelis as “the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah.”
“We stand together because we are democracies. For as noisy and messy as it may be, we know that democracy is the greatest form of government ever devised by man,” said Barack Obama.
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchanged reassuring words about the strength of their alliance at a joint news conference after their meeting.
It’s no secret that Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship, although it was hard to tell by the way the two leaders publicly lauded each other and joked around, says ABC News.
President Obama today told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his administration remains committed to doing “what is necessary” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Obama told reporters at a joint press conference after a series of closed-door meetings with Israeli leaders.
“The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps. And I will repeat, all options are on the table,” he said.
Obama also told Shimon Peres that the work their countries do together will make it more likely that children growing up in the region will have the future opportunity for security, peace and prosperity
Obama declared common cause with Israel, noting that it was the first stop of the first trip of his second term. “We share a vision of Israel at peace with its neighbors,” Obama said upon arriving in Tel Aviv, writes the Time.
Obama also said the U.S. is investigating whether chemical weapons have been used in war-torn neighboring Syria, but said he is “deeply skeptical” of claims they were deployed by forces looking to overthrow President Bashar Assad’s regime.
“The broader point is, is that once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer,” he said.
“I want to make sure that we’re working as an international community to deal with this problem because I think it’s a world problem, not simply a United States problem or an Israel problem or a Turkish problem,” said Obama.
While there President Obama will visit the Israel Museum, where he will view the Dead Sea Scrolls and attend a technology expo, before traveling to Ramallah, West Bank.
There he will be greeted with an official arrival ceremony, followed by a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Abbas.
Later, the President will attend a cultural event at Al-Bireh Youth Center and meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad, before giving a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center.