Obama: Israel has "no greater friend" than U.S.
In the first leg of his Israeli charm offensive, President Obama this morning reaffirmed America's strong support for Israel, announcing in a joint press conference with President Shimon Peres that Israel has "no greater friend" than America, and vowing to push forward in joint efforts to secure Israel's future in an increasingly tumultuous Middle East.
Mr. Obama, speaking after a meeting with Peres in Jerusalem, thanked his host for planting "seeds" of progress, security, and peace, and lauded the president for being a "wise" and "thoughtful partner."
"Not only does he have astonishing vision but he's also a pretty practical-minded politician," Mr. Obama said.
This is Mr. Obama's first trip to Israel as president, and the first foreign trip of his second term. But unlike presidents Clinton and Carter before him, Mr. Obama isn't arriving with a peace plan for Israel and the Palestinian Authority: He's said he means to "listen" about critical issues impacting the region, particularly those surrounding Iran's nuclear capabilities, and the ongoing conflict in Syria. High on his agenda will be smoothing over past tensions with Netanyahu, and reestablish the U.S.'s commitment to the defense of Israel.
In remarks following their meeting, Peres assured Mr. Obama the two share a "vision" for the future of the Middle East - and that, despite recent tensions, trust remains between the two countries on the important policy questions.
"The greatest danger is a nuclear Iran, so you said," Peres said. "We trust your policy," which calls to first... try by non-military means with the clear statement that other options remain on the table. You've made it clear that your intention is not to contain but to prevent."
He also alluded to ongoing debate over whether or not chemical weapons were used in an attack yesterday in Syria, a controversy that hangs over Mr. Obama's trip.
"Hezbollah is destroying Lebanon and supporting the brutal massacre of the Syrian people by president Assad," said Peres in the press conference. "Fortunately the Syrian nuclear capacity was destroyed, but unfortunately...chemical weapons remain. We cannot allow that those weapons to fall in the terrorists hands. It could lead to an epic tragedy."
Following the press conference, Mr. Obama headed to a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with whom he will hold another press conference this afternoon.
According to a pool report, the president's motorcade dealt with some minor auto issues before his arrival.
"One of our protective vehicles experienced mechanical problems in Israel earlier today," said Edwin Donovan, spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, on the incident. "This is why we bring multiple vehicles and a mechanic on all trips. Situations like this are planned for extensively by our advance teams so that the President's itinerary is unaffected by these types of issues."
Popular in Politics
- Obama prom pictures surface 107 Comments
- IRS official Lois Lerner placed on leave 97 Comments
- Is President Obama ending the war on terror?
- Rep. Jo Bonner to resign from House for university job
- Protester heckles Obama during counterterrorism speech Play Video
- Obama: America at a "crossroads" in fighting terrorism 106 Comments
- Now, some unions upset over Obamacare
- Obama: The war on terror, "like all wars, must end" Play Video