Obama in Tel Aviv: Like Israel, our alliance is eternal

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 |  Israel Today Staff

US President Barack Obama touched down in Tel Aviv on Wednesday for his first visit to Israel since moving into the Oval Office in 2009. Notably, the Jewish state was the first international stop of Obama's second term.

After warmly greeting and being greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, both Obama and Netanyahu got a little bit casual by removing their jackets in the Tel Aviv heat.

Netanyahu and Peres both delivered brief welcome speeches, and then Obama approached the podium, where he started off with a little Hebrew - Tov lihyot shuv ba'aretz - It's good to again be in the Land.

Obama's overtly positive speech emphasized the unprecedented miracle that is the modern rebirth of Israel.

"More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history," said Obama.

He concluded by stating that "it is in America's interest" to maintain strong ties with Israel. "I am confident in declaring that our alliance is l'netzach, eternal," said Obama, once again employing a bit of Hebrew.

Obama proceded to inspect one of Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, which were developing with American funding, before departing for Jerusalem by helicopter.

Netanyahu said Obama's arrival and his speech were a signal of America's unbreakable commitment to Israel's right to exist, and former Israeli ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon called on Israelis to take the opportunity to express their thanks to the United States.

Not everyone was so pleased by the day's events.

Arab member of Knesset Ahmed Tibi, an outspoken critic of Israel and supporter of the "Palestinian cause," blasted Obama for delivering a "Zionist speech" upon his arrival.

Many Israelis were also irked by the timing of what they see as little more than a photo-op visit. Obama has arrived just days before Passover, one of the busiest times of year in Israel, and his presence has resulted in the closing of several major thoroughfares and heavy traffic in other parts of Jerusalem.

Obama's chief goal while he is here will be to charm and reconnect with average Israelis, most of whom have expressed a distrust in the current commander-in-chief. Media analysts are saying he got off to a good start.

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