As we mentioned in Daybreak, President Obama’s trip to Israel has officially begun. Between social media, the traveling press, and the dispatches from Israeli citizens and journalists, the sheer amount of information about the unfolding trip is impressive. We’ll be updating throughout the day, but here is some of what we already know:
• President Obama arrived at about 1 PM local Israeli time and was greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, an honor guard, and a collection of rabbis, imams, and priests. Obama, first introduced by Peres, then delivered a six-minute speech which, given the charges leveled against him during the last presidential campaign, should embarrass some people.
More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history.
Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be “masters of their own fate” in “their own sovereign state.” And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.
As I begin my second term as President, Israel is the first stop on my first foreign trip. This is no accident. Across this region the winds of change bring both promise and peril. So I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds 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.
The President also dropped some Hebrew in the speech to the delight of the crowd: Tov le’hiyot shuv ba’aretz, he said. “It’s good to be back in Israel.” Bibi also gave a little speech, thanking Obama and the United States for their friendship and support.
• Shortly after the ceremony, Obama and Bibi inspected an Iron Dome defense battery that had been brought in for the occasion. The two chatted with some members of the operating staff and entered a control room. Dan Shapiro and Michael Oren, the ambassadors to Israel and the U.S. respectively, joined them. The group soon departed for Jerusalem.
• One of the other subplots of the afternoon was the breakdown of the armored presidential limo, known as “The Beast,” which was mistakenly filled with diesel instead of gasoline by the American staff. It happened before Obama even arrived, but expect a Thomas Friedman article.
• The Obamas are picking up some pretty great swag from the trip. President Obama gets a gold-coated nano-chip with the American and Israeli declarations of independence etched in the sides and set on Second Temple-era Jerusalem stone as well as some rare Holocaust artifacts. Michelle will be receiving a seder plate for the White House from Sara Netanyahu, Sasha and Malia Obama will get “chains with silver medallions in the shape of David’s harp set with Roman glass,” and Bo, the White House Portuguese water dog will get a rubber hamburger chew toy (no cheese).
Does it get more exciting than that? You’ll have to tune in later and find out.