YNET, TIMES OF ISRAEL, CHANNEL 2 TV (Israel)
JERUSALEM - Barack Obama landed in Israel on Wednesday for his first trip as U.S. president. He was greeted at Ben Gurion Airport by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the Times of Israel, President Peres welcomed Obama "with open arms," saying: "Thank you Mr. President, thank you America. Thank you for what you are. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for the hopes you carry with you."
Peres added: " A world without America’s leadership, without her moral voice, your moral voice, would be a darker world."
Netanyahu talked of Israel's desire "for a stable and a secure peace," adding, "I look forward to working with you."
Obama started his speech in Hebrew, saying "Tov lihyot ba’aretz" – It's good to be in Israel again. "The United States is proud to stand with you," he said.
The Times of Israel reports that Obama spoke of "the winds of change" and new opportunities in the region. He said the U.S. and Israel "stand together because we share a common story" – share the goals of freedom, the tradition of bringing in immigrants from every corner of the world.
The US President even noted how both countries are leaders in high-tech innovation.
“We stand together because peace must come to the holy land,” he concluded.
Twitter greeted Obama's arrival with the usual high and low:
Obama overheard telling Bibi: good to get away from Congress
— Chemi Shalev (@ChemiShalev) March 20, 2013
— Mark Mardell (@BBCMarkMardell) March 20, 2013
— Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) March 20, 2013
According to Ynet, 15,000 police – over half of Israel’s police force – will participate in efforts to secure President Obama, with more than 5,000 officers alone involved in protecting the presidential entourage.
Obama’s three-day visit will include a visit to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and Bethlehem, a visit to the Yad Vashem foundation and laying a wreath at former Prime Minister Ytzhak Rabin’s grave. The president has said he is not going to the region bearing “a grand peace plan.”
In an exclusive interview last week with Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Obama said: “What this trip allows me to do, I think, is once again have a chance to connect with the Israeli people.”
“My goal on this trip is to listen. I intend to meet with Bibi (Netanyahu) … I intend to meet with Fayyad and Abu Mazen (Abbas) and to hear from them what is their strategy, what is their vision, where do they think this should go?
He also said he will tell Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that he must work with Israel, rather than "trying to unilaterally go to, for example, the United Nations, and do an end run around Israel, is not going to be successful."
"To Bibi (Netanyahu) I would suggest to him that he should have an interest in strengthening the moderate leadership inside the Palestinian Authority ...For example, making sure that issues like settlements are viewed through the lens of: Is this making it harder or easier for Palestinian moderates to sit down at the table," added Obama.
Watch the interview: