Barack Obama arrives in Tel Aviv and pledges 'eternal' support for Jewish state on his first official visit to Israel


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The Independent Online

Barack Obama has landed in Israel, making his first visit to the Jewish state as US President and immediately vowing to maintain the "unbreakable bond" between the two countries.

“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 neighbours,” Mr Obama said as he stepped off Air Force One and on to a red carpet at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.

"I am confident in declaring that our alliance is eternal, is forever," he said, adding the Hebrew word for forever - "Lanetzach".

After inspecting a missile battery at the airport, the American president will travel along the highway that connects Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and which will be closed while he makes the 45km journey, for meetings with the Israeli president Shimon Peres, and then Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.

It seemed Mr Obama's journey would be a little delayed though, as one of the American president's limousines refused to work after apparently being filled with diesel rather than petrol. Another was on its way from Jordan, according to Israel's Channel 10.

“Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel's sovereign right to defend itself by itself against any threat,” Mr Netanyahu said, welcoming Mr Obama, setting the tone for later discussions which are likely to focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the threat to Israel and the wider region posed by the upheaval to the north in Syria.

Both countries have played down the prospect of restarting the peace process with the Palestinians, and the Palestinians have been largely sceptical about the president visit – yesterday morning, there were protests in Ramallah and Bethlehem – which Mr Obama will visit during his stay in the region, and in Hebron.

“We stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land," Mr Obama said. "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.”