Upon arrival, Obama calls U.S. the ‘greatest friend’ of Israel
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President Barack Obama began his first presidential visit to Israel with an airport speech calling the United States the “strongest ally and greatest friend” of Israel.
“Why does the U.S. stand with Israel?” Obama asked the crowd at the welcoming ceremony March 20 at Ben Gurion Airport. “We stand together because we share a common story. We stand together because we’re democracies. We stand together because together we’re more prosperous. We share a commitment to helping our fellow human beings around the world.”
Among fluttering Israeli and American flags, the U.S. leader was escorted to the tarmac by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. An honor guard and military band greeted the trio as they shook hands with Israeli religious, political and cultural dignitaries.
“Thank you for standing by Israel in this time of historic change for the Middle East,” Netanyahu said in his welcome to Obama. “Thank you for strengthening the alliance between our two countries.”
Neither Obama nor Netanyahu, nor Peres, who also spoke, mentioned the Iranian nuclear program, an issue of grave concern for the U.S. and Israel. But all three leaders spoke about peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu said Israelis “seek peace with our Palestinian neighbors.” Obama declared, “Peace must come to the Holy Land.”
Obama has visited Israel three times, the last in 2008 when he was a senator and presidential candidate. — jta
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