President Barack Obama has arrived in Israel for his first visit as the leader of the United States.
Obama was greeted on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport (BGI) by some 1,000 people representing every branch of Israel’s military and security forces, diplomats, notables and journalists from around the world.
Among the crowd was Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, both of whom were there to extend hands of welcome as Obama stepped off Air Force One to the peal of trumpets from a military band.
“How are you, my friend?” asked Peres, as he smiled at Obama. The men then stood at attention for the U.S. and Israeli national anthems.
Obama told the crowd in brief remarks the U.S. is proud to “stand with Israel as its strongest ally and greatest friend.”
President Shimon Peres in his greeting, meanwhile, thanked Obama for his unshakeable support of Israel and "welcomed him home," while the prime minister thanked the American president for defending Israel’s right to exist.
The U.S. president was also greeted by Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, as he walked down the red carpet leading from the aircraft.
He then shook hands with each member of Israel’s newly-sworn-in Knesset before being flown by helicopter straight to Jerusalem.
Obama is scheduled to begin a series of three meetings in the Israeli capital with the prime minister after first attending a reception at the President’s Residence.
The marathon Obama-Netanyahu meetings will begin with an initial two and a half-hour session, after which the pair will meet with reporters for a joint news conference, to be followed by a working dinner and then more meetings into the night.
Obama is expected to travel to Ramallah during his three-day visit to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, before leaving the country.