U.S. President Barack Obama finally arrived in Israel Wednesday, his plane landing a little after 12 p.m. local time at Ben Gurion International Airport.
According to the Times of Israel, an 88-member honor guard: 22 IAF flight school cadets, 22 Navy officer cadets, 22 infantry cadets and 22 female Military Police officers, greeted the U.S. president, as did a procession of Israeli dignitaries, with President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the fore. Newly appointed finance minister Yair Lapid was among the members of the procession, and Obama stopped and spoke with him for more than thirty seconds, congratulating him lightheartedly on his successful transition from TV to politics.
President Peres made the first remarks of the trip, telling Obama: “We welcome you as a great President of the United States of America. As a remarkable world leader. As a historic friend of Israel. Of the Jewish People. Your visit here is a crown demonstration of the profound relationship Â between our two nations.” Peres also thanked the U.S. for its support and for standing “by our side from the very beginning. You supported us as we rebuilt our ancient homeland. As we defended our land. From Holocaust to redemption. From Truman to Obama.”
Netanyahu followed Peres with his own remarks, welcoming President Obama by telling him: “I come here today with a simple message for you and the American people: Â Thank you. Thank you for standing by Israel at this time of historic change in the Middle East.”
Netanyahu also thanked the U.S. president forÂ “strengthening the unbreakable alliance between our two nations during your Presidency.”
President Obama began his remarks by saying in Hebrew, “Tov lihyot ba’aretz” – it’s good to be in Israel. He noted it was his third time in the country and that the US “stands with Israel because it is in our fundamental security interest… it makes the world a better place… That’s why the United States was the very first nation” to recognize Israel 65 years ago.
Following the ceremonial reception, Obama visited an Iron Dome battery which was brought to the airport especially for the presidential visit and then boarded the Marine One helicopter for the trip to Jerusalem.
Watch a video of Obama’s remarks below: