President Obama landed in Israel this morning, marking the first time he visits the country as president.
“I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors,” Obama said during a welcoming ceremony at the Tel Aviv airport.
NPR’s Larry Abramson, who’s at the airport, just spoke to our Newscast unit. He said Obama was welcomed by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Those leaders reaffirmed the “unbreakable alliance” between the countries, Larry said. “President Obama talked about the similarities between these two countries, how they both came from immigrants who wanted to be free who wanted to set up an independent democracy and to fight in order to do that,” Larry said.
Obama is now on his way to tour Israel’s Iron Dome, the country’s missile defense system, which the United States has helped fund. Later today, he’ll head to Jerusalem and tomorrow, he’ll cross into Ramallah in the West Bank.
The New York Times reports that Obama does not arrive in the region with grand plans to revive stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Rather, he is seeking to make a connection with the Israeli people, many of whom view him with a jaundiced eye after four years in which he sparred with Mr. Netanyahu over issues like Iran and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank,” the Times reports.
The highlight of the trip will be a speech Obama will deliver to students at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Thursday.
The Washington Post reports the president is expected to reassure Israel of the United States’ commitment to its security as Israel “seeks to counter threats from Iran and protect its people in the midst of civil war in neighboring Syria.”
Larry called this a “trust-building visit.” He says that even though both sides insist there are no problems between the two countries, the fact is there has been some tension.
“There have been questions about whether or not the Israelis are a little too eager to possibly attack Iran in order to keep it from getting a nuclear bomb. And there are also questions about whether or not Israel is serious about resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, but nobody is really expecting any big initiatives by the United States or the Israelis on those two fronts at this point,” Larry told our Newscast unit.