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Obama in Israel: ‘It’s good to get away from Congress’

“It’s good to get away from Congress,” the president said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, provoking a throaty laugh from his counterpart.

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The joke was not the only moment of levity Obama and Netanyahu shared in the welcoming ceremony.

Netanyahu joked that he knew of a few bars the two could patronize in Tel Aviv, a reference to an interview Obama gave in which he said he wanted to wear a fake mustache and mingle with regular folks during his trip.

Obama arrived in Israel, his first visit to the country as president, to begin a three-day tour of the Middle East.

Obama and Netanyahu shared a rocky relationship during the president’s first term, clashing publicly over Israeli settlements and efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The trip is seen as a chance for Obama to also woo the broader Israeli public, with polls showing just 10 percent of Israelis view him favorably.

Obama and Netanyahu face many immediate crises, with the worsening civil war in Syria and deadlocked talks over Iran’s nuclear program. The White House said last week that Obama would also use the trip to reassure Israeli leaders that he is committed to protecting Israel’s security, in particular preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.