President Obama arrived in Israel Wednesday, declaring “Peace must come to the Holy Land” during a lavish welcoming ceremony at the start of a three-day blitz of the area.
“As I begin my second term as president, Israel is the first stop on my first foreign trip,” Obama said. “This is no accident. Across this region the winds of change bring both promise and peril. So I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors.”
Obama’s trip is widely viewed as symbolic. Ahead of his departure, administration officials downplayed expectations for any breakthrough in long-stalled peace talks between Israel and Palestine.
But the presidential trip takes on greater significance with claims that Syria has used chemical weapons in the civil war taking place near Israel’s border. Obama has labeled the use of such weapons a “red line” for military intervention.
After being welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, Obama toured an Iron Dome battery and other U.S.-funded missile defense systems.
Later Wednesday, Obama will hold a joint press conference with Netanyahu, looking to repair a notoriously rocky relationship. The two will likely discuss the civil war in Syria, curtailing a nuclear Iran and the possibility of a peace deal between Israel and Palestine.