U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano arrived Monday in Israel on a multi-city tour to assess security measures for U.S.-bound flights.
Napolitano, who was originally scheduled to arrive Wednesday, is expected to remain several days, during which she will review security procedures at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
She traveled directly to Jerusalem to meet with President Shimon Peres at the Presidential Residence.
The two discussed strengthening strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S. in the field of Homeland Security, according to a statement from the president's office. They also discussed various aspects of the peace process between Israel and its neighbors, the statement said.
“Insecurity is not homemade but comes from outside, has a global character, is original and concerns the defense of innocent people,” Peres said at the beginning of the meeting. “For us it is a key issue.”
Napolitano responded with the standard affirmation of the “strong and enduring partnership” between the United States and Israel. She added that she was in the country to see that “all the things we are doing in partnership” from aviation and cyber security to security-focused science and technology research, “is being done in a productive and robust fashion.”
The focus on increased security in American aviation comes a year after an attempt by the international Al-Qaeda terrorist organization to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner.
Various media had reported that Napolitano would skip the trip due to fears that terrorists might repeat the 2009 Christmas bombing attempt by a Nigerian national.
Security at BGI is considered to be the most effective in world aviation, although some groups do not like the policy of racial profiling used as part of the security system.
New increased Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security measures for passengers flying to the United States were announced Monday ahead of Napolitano's visit.
Included among the new measures were physical searches of passengers holding passports from Cuba and 13 Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. In addition, passengers will have to pass through metal detectors, and all luggage will be x-rayed.
The latter two practices have been standard operating procedure at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, as well as at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, for years. In addition, anyone who cannot pass a specialized set of security questions posed to each passenger is removed from the general queue for special processing, which usually includes a physical search.