By Chana Ya’ar
“Peace must come to the Holy Land,” proclaimed US President Barack Obama on Wednesday after stepping down on to the tarmac at Ben Gurion Int’l Airport.
“We will never lose sight of an Israel at peace with its neighbors,” Obama insisted, making clear his determination to again try to revive the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Obama’s visit to the region in this, his second term, differs from his previous tour of the Middle East when he skipped Israel altogether and instead headed to Egypt, to make a speech from Cairo that some analysts believe may have contributed to the region wide Arab Spring uprisings.
Straight and to the point, the American president told Israelis on the tarmac Wednesday morning, “Our alliance is eternal. It is forever.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded in the red-carpet welcoming ceremony by thanking Obama for standing up for Israel’s right to defend its own existence.
“This is an historic moment,” Netanyahu said. “You have chosen to come to Israel as the first foreign visit of your second term, you the leader of the United States, the world’s greatest democracy, have chosen to come to our somewhat smaller but no less vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East, the one and only Jewish state of Israel.
“On behalf of the government and the people of Israel, I come here today with a simple message for you and the American people: Thank you. Thank you for standing by Israel at this time of historic change in the Middle East.
“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.
“Thank you, Mr. President, for upholding the Jewish people’s right to a Jewish state in our historic homeland, and for boldly defending that right at the United Nations. And thank you for strengthening the unbreakable alliance between our two nations during your Presidency.
“The people of Israel are honored to have you visit our country. We warmly welcome you as a cherished guest. We deeply appreciate your friendship. And we share your hope that the Middle East will enjoy a future of freedom, prosperity and peace.
“Mr. President, Baruch HaBa L’Yisrael: welcome to Israel.”