Barack Obama has promised America’s “unwavering support” for Israel’s security. He was speaking shortly after arriving in the country on the first overseas trip of his second term as US president.
There were effusive welcomes given by Israel’s president Shimon Peres and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described him as a “cherished guest”.
In his opening address at Tel Aviv’s airport Obama said: “Across this region the winds of change bring both promise and peril. So I see this visit as an opportunity. We stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land. For even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulties, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbours.”
The mainstay of relations between the two countries was clear – a US missile battery at the airport. Israel is believed to benefit from US military hardware to the tune of at least 2.5 billion euros per year.
But the relaxed air belied sometimes fractious exchanges. Netanyahu’s government has riled the White House with its insistence on settlement building on land Palestinians want for any new state.
Obama is also due meet the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on the three day visit and he will go to neighbouring Jordan.