US president welcomed at Israeli airport

Updated: 2013-03-21 09:56


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US president welcomed at Israeli airport

US President Barack Obama (C) is welcomed by Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) during a welcoming ceremony at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 20, 2013. Obama arrived in Tel Aviv in Israel Wednesday to start his first visit as US president to Israel. Obama will spend three days in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.[Photo/Xinhua]

TEL AVIV, Israel - US President Barack Obama received a grand welcome ceremony upon arriving at the Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv of Israel around Wednesday noon.

The president was greeted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the members of the new Israeli cabinet inaugurated on Monday.

A total of 1,000 people attended the ceremony including a marching band.

President Obama thanked Israelis for their "warm reception" and said in Hebrew that it's "good to be in Israel again."

"The United States and Israel share a strong alliance and friendship. It's not an accident that this is my first stop in my overseas trip," Obama added.

"I came here to reaffirm the connection between our countries. We stand together because we share a common story... because we're democracies and we share the view that peace must come to the holy land," Obama said. "Our alliance is forever," he concluded.

Netanyahu called Obama's visit "historic" and expressed his appreciation for the United States' support for Israel and the two countries' close cooperation on security and intelligence.

Peres called Obama a "dear friend and remarkable world leader" and said that the visit, termed "Unbreakable Alliance," demonstrated the strong relationship between Israel and the United States.

Following the ceremony, Obama witnessed a demonstration of anti- missile systems including the Iron Dome and Magic Wand and then made his way to Jerusalem where he will hold official meetings with Netanyahu and Peres.

Obama's three-day visit to the region will also include meetings with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and visits to special landmarks.

This is Obama's third visit to Israel but the first one as US President.

The aim of the visit is mainly to get the Israeli people to " warm up" to the US president and there are no expectations of tangible results from the visit regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Last week Obama told Channel 2 news in an exclusive interview that he's not coming with a grand peace plan but to "listen" to both sides. The Iranian's nuclear ambitions will also come up in talks among leaders.

According to a survey recently conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, 36.5 percent of Jews in Israel view Obama as friendly toward their country, compared with 29 percent last year.

In addition, the poll found that while 51 percent of the Jewish respondents see the president's attitude toward Israel as neutral, 10 percent view him as hostile to the Jewish state and its leaders.