- (Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside)
President Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday, marking the first time he has visited the Middle Eastern country during his presidency.
The President began a 3-day visit and stressed to wary Israelis that the U.S. is committed to aiding the country provide its own security. He said that the country is also looking for a way for the nations in the region to come to some sort of peaceful agreement.
"I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond 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 told reporters at Tel Aviv airport.
Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had a frosty relationship during the last four years, and security concerns with Iran and Syria have only added to the tensions between the two. But even in the face of serious threats from various countries in the region, peace is still a common goal in the Middle East.
"Even as we are clear eyed about the difficulties, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors," Obama told reporters in Tel Aviv. "The United States stands with Israel because it is in our fundamental security interests to stand with Israel. Our alliance is eternal. It is forever," the president added.
Obama has a difficult task ahead of him this trip given that polls in Israel show only 10 percent of Israelis have a positive view of the President, but his smile and charm could help him in mending fences and gaining support among members of the fresh Israeli government.
"Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel's sovereign right to defend itself by itself against any threat," Netanyahu said in response to Obama's comment.
But the President was not just greeted by adoring supporters. There were several reports of protesters, which had amassed in Ramallah and Bethlehem, who felt the President has not done enough to faster peace in the region.
"People are angry and disappointed that this far into his presidency Obama has done nothing, and aid to Israel's occupation continues to flow," protester Huwaida Arraf told Reuters.