By Jonathan Easley - 03/20/13 12:06 PM EDT
President Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday and praised the “eternal” alliance between the U.S. and Mideast nation.
Obama was greeted at Ben Gurion airport at Tel Aviv by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his first visit to Israel as president.
“We stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land,” Obama said. “Even though we are clear-eyed about the difficulties, we must never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.”
Speaking from the tarmac, the president stood at a lectern on a long red carpet addressing a small crowd, as Israeli president Shimon Peres, Netanyahu and an honor guard of the Israeli military stood by.
“As I begin this visit let me say as clearly as I can: The United States of America stands with the state of Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interests to stand with Israel,” Obama said. “It makes us both stronger, it makes us both more prosperous, and it makes the world a better place.”
"That’s why the United States was the very first nation to recognize the state of Israel 65 years ago. That’s why the Star of David and the stars and stripes fly together today. And that’s why I’m confident that our alliance is eternal. It is forever,” he continued.
Obama’s arrival in Israel is the first stop on a three-day tour that includes visits to Jordan and the West Bank. Obama is expected to address a number of pressing international issues during the first foreign trip of his second term, including growing concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the escalating civil war in Syria.
Obama plans to use the trip to reach out to young Israelis and build support for resolving crises with the country’s combustible neighbors.
Obama has had a rocky relationship with Netanyahu in the past, with the Israeli leader pressing the White House to take stronger steps to halt Iran’s nuclear pursuits. But Obama has continued to press for a diplomatic solution, while also insisting that all options are on the table to prevent a military Iran.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu welcomed Obama and also praised the strong ties between their nations.
“Welcome home, Mr. President,” he said. “You’ve chosen to come to Israel as the first foreign visit of your second term.”
Netanyahu also thanked the president for U.S. support in dealing with the perpetual unrest in the region.
“Thank you. Thank you for standing with Israel,” he said, noting U.S.-provided military aid and support at the United Nations.
"We welcome you as a remarkable president,” Peres added. “Your visit here is a demonstration of the profound relationship between our two countries. Thank for way you are, thank you for what you do. Thank you for the hopes you carry with you."