U.S. President Barack Obama has said at the start of his first official visit to Israel that U.S. commitment to the security of the Jewish state was ironclad.
Obama, speaking on March 20 upon arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, said he was confident the U.S. Israeli alliance was "eternal."
"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 said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Obama for standing up for Israel.
"Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel's sovereign right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. Thank you for enhancing Israel's ability to exercise that right through generous military assistance, revolutionary missile-defense programs, and unprecedented security and intelligence cooperation," Netanyahu said.
Obama and Netanyahu disagreed frequently during the president's first term on issues related to the peace process with the Palestinians.
Obama's talks with Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres are expected to tackle the Iranian nuclear threat, the instability in Egypt, as well as the Syrian conflict, and the stalled Mideast peace process.
However, analysts say Obama's visit is mainly meant to counter Israel's skepticism about his commitment to the U.S.-Israeli partnership.
Deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes told reporters not to expect measurable results, however, because Obama isn’t bringing any new proposals or policy positions.
“We’ve been very clear that this visit is not about trying to lay down a new initiative or complete our work on a particular issue. Frankly, there’s value in traveling precisely at a time when there is a new government in Israel and a new government in the United States, to just having a broad, strategic conversation,” Rhodes said,
On March 21, Obama is due to deliver a speech to Israeli university students and to travel to the West Bank for a working lunch with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.
The U.S. president will end his trip in Jordan, where he’ll hold talks with King Abdullah.