Day One of Obama in Israel/Palestine — ‘It’s good to be back in the land of Israel,’ Obama says in Hebrew

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Obama and Netanyahu on the Ben Gurion tarmac. Tweeters pointed out that when Obama took his jacket off, Netanyahu promptly mimicked the president. Everything seems well coordinated.
(Photo: Twitter)

3:40 pm The Onion‘s itinerary for Obama’s trip

Here are some highlights of Obama’s trip according to The Onion:

  • Wednesday, 11:00 a.m.: Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have a good laugh about the time Netanyahu tried to make Obama lose the election
     
  • Wednesday, 3:15 p.m.: While visiting West Bank, Israeli police to hurry Obama away from latest human rights atrocity
     
  • Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.: Obama to deliver customary U.S. gifts of long-range ballistic missiles and cluster bombs to Israeli military officials
     
  • Thursday, 12:20 p.m.: Obama to address protesting Palestinians with symbolic nod, shrug
     
  • Thursday, 7:00 p.m.: Obama to explain for fifth time why the U.S. can’t just drop a nuclear bomb on Tehran

Read the rest here.

2:35 pm Watch the Obama/Netanyahu press conference

2:30 pm White House says Obama/Netanyahu press conference to take place in “Jerusalem, Israel”

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(Screen cap: Yair Rosenberg)

2:10 pm Walking Netanyahu’s red line

2:00 pm Obama’s message in Netanyahu’s official guestbook

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10:20 am Protests in Hebron, Israel arrests children:

Photos of a protest in Hebron as Obama arrived in Israel/Palestine –

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(Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)
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(Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)
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(Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

972’s Haggai Matar writes:

Meanwhile in Hebron army forces arrested about 30 schoolchildren, at least five of whom were between the ages of 8 and 10 and thus under the age of criminal responsibility, according to B’Tselem. The children are accused of having participated in acts of stone throwing.

Later in the afternoon a group of some 25 Palestinians, internationals and Israelis marched the Shuhada Street in Hebron, where freedom of movement has been restricted and has been open only to Israelis for the past 12 years. The activists, who were following up on a Saturday workshop on civil rights in the U.S., wore “I have a dream” T-shirts and masks with the faces of Obama and Martin Luther King Jr., and carried signs connecting the fight for civil rights in the American South to that of Palestinians against Apartheid. Activists sang “woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom,” when a group of settlers started to attack them. Soldiers who swiftly arrived on the scene reportedly zoomed in on the prominent local activists, arresting four Palestinians, three internationals and two Israelis, who were later released.

Here’s B’tselem video from the Hebron arrests:

10:04 am Reports that Obama will present Iran attack timeline:

The Times of Israel reports Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is headed to Israel next month to discuss Iran:

New word — breaking just now — is that US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is to visit here next month — doubtless with Iran, again, very high on the agenda. The timing of the Obama visit, analysts say, is very Iran-linked too. Netanyahu had spoken last fall of this spring as being the moment of truth on Iran. Obama wants to make sure, face-to-face, that the prime minister isn’t about to do anything unexpected, and that the US and Israel are as coordinated as they can be.

9:14 am Video and reports of Obama arriving at Ben Gurion Airport:

What follows, in the order we received them, are press pool reports on the President’s trip prepared by Mark Landler of the New York Times, followed by the White House report of the President’s six-minute speech on arriving in Israel, 12:55 IST (Evidently Israel Standard Time).

Note that Obama brought Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Netanyahu’s flack during his speech to Congress) and Eliot Engel (a hardline Zionist) on Air Force One with him. And, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican hardliner, reports Scott Roth. So much for the honest broker.

Report #2:

Arrival at Tel Aviv President Obama touched down at Ben Gurion Airport at 12:12, local time, a few minutes early, under hazy skies. He will be greeted by the following party, per the WH: Israel: 1. President Shimon Peres 2. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 3. Talya Lador-Fresher, MFA Chief of Protocol 4. Lt. Colonel Avraham, MOD Chief of Protocol 5. President Peres’ Aid-de-camp 6. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Aid-de-camp United States 1. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Add to Report 2:

Note: POTUS was joined on the flight by Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D of Fla, and Rep. Eliot Engel, D of NY.

Report 3:

Arrival Ceremony

POTUS emerged from AF1 at 12:30 to a formal arrival ceremony, with full ruffles and flourishes. Standing at the end of a long red carpet with Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, the leaders listened to the national anthems of the US and Israel, played by an Israeli military band. An honor guard from all branches of the Israeli military stood at attention. On both sides, small crowds watched from bleachers lined with Israeli and US flags and bedecked with red, white, and purple flowers. Obama and Peres then inspected the troops, with Obama putting his arm around Peres at one point. The three leaders marched down the long carpet, with Air Force One as a looming backdrop, to a lengthy receiving line of civil and religious dignitaries, as well as members of the new Israeli government. Obama made his way slowly through the line, smiling, shaking hands, and leaning in to hear. Among the religious leaders were rabbis, priests, imams, their vestments contrasting to the dark business suits of the government officials. Netanyahu then hugged and kissed members of the US delegation including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Eliot Engel. Shimon Peres introduced Obama, saying “We welcome you as a remarkable president.” Remarks are carried live but highlights: “Your visit here is a demonstration of the profound relationship between our two countries” “Thank for way you are, thank you for what you do. Thank you for the hopes you carry with you.” With US role, he said, it would “invite aggression against Israel.” “Welcome home, Mr. President.” PM Netanyahu then said, “you’ve chosen to come to Israel as the first foreign visit of your second term.” “I come here today with a simple message for you and the people of the United States: Thank you. Thanking for standing with Israel.” Bibi thanks Obama for military aid, standing up for Israel at the UN, and for the “unbreakable US bond.” “You’ll see past, present, and future in this tiny land that has left such a huge imprint on civilization.” He mentions Obama seeing the Dead Sea scroll, showing the link between the Jewish and the land. Bibi said he has chosen a few bars and cafes in Tel Aviv, if Obama wanted to go incognito, as he joked about in an interview with Israeli TV last week. “Shalom!” Obama said to scattered claps. “It’s good to be back in the land of Israel,” Obama said in Hebrew, to broader applause. “I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations.” “We share a common story,” he added. “Peace must come to the Holy Land” Obama ends his speech with a ringing affirmation of an “eternal alliance.” Pool is now moving to a hanger where POTUS will inspect an Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Report 4:

Iron Dome Inspection

Obama arrived in a black SUV to inspect Iron Dome and other air-defense systems lined up outside an hangar on the tarmac. They are a mix of rockets and mobile anti-missile batteries. “I’m a young man. I’m always looking for any chance to walk,” Obama said to Israeli military officials after hopping out of the SUV. Obama listened as an officer explained the functions of an Iron Dome battery, a squat, desert-grey weapon pointed skyward. He then entered what appeared to be a control room. Michael Oren and Dan Shapiro, Israel’s ambassador to the US and the US ambassador to Israel, chatted outside as they waited. Back outside, Obama shook hands with a line of Israeli officials in front of Iron Dome. He paused again in front of the battery, gesturing with his hands, as an officer spoke to him. POTUS and Bibi then walked, in shirt sleeves, to Marine One, for the short flight into Jerusalem. Pool is following Background from WH: “Following the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport, President Obama will view an Iron Dome battery in Tel Aviv. Iron Dome is a short range rocket and mortar defense system, which was developed by Israel and produced with U.S. assistance. Iron Dome is part of a multi-tier missile defense architecture developed as a counter measure to the rocket threat against Israel’s civilian population. The United States has provided $275 million in Iron Dome funding since it’s inception, and will provide an additional $211 million in funding in FY 2013. Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives, most recently during Operation Pillar of Defense, during the November 2012 Gaza conflict. The development of Israel’s defense architecture demonstrates the strength of the U.S.-Israel mutual defense relationship and exemplifies the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security.”

From the White House:

12:55 P.M. IST
    

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Shalom.  (Applause.)  President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and most of all, to the people of Israel, thank you for this incredibly warm welcome.  This is my third visit to Israel so let me just say tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz.  (Applause.)

 

I’m so honored to be here as you prepare to celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel.  Yet I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish 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. 

 

I want to begin right now, by answering a question that is sometimes asked about our relationship — why?  Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel?  And the answer is simple.  We stand together because we share a common story — patriots determined to be e a free people in our land,” pioneers who forged a nation, heroes who sacrificed to preserve our freedom, and immigrants from every corner of the world who renew constantly our diverse societies.

 

We stand together because we are democracies.  For as noisy and messy as it may be, we know that democracy is the greatest form of government ever devised by man. 

 

We stand together because it makes us more prosperous.  Our trade and investment create jobs for both our peoples.  Our partnerships in science and medicine and health bring us closer to new cures, harness new energy and have helped transform us into high-tech hubs of our global economy.

 

We stand together because we share a commitment to helping our fellow human beings around the world.  When the earth shakes and the floods come, our doctors and rescuers reach out to help. When people are suffering, from Africa to Asia, we partner to fight disease and overcome hunger.

 

And we stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land.  For even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulty, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.

 

So as I begin this visit, let me say as clearly as I can –the United States of America stands with the State of Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel.  It makes us both stronger.  It makes us both more prosperous.  And it makes the world a better place.  (Applause.)

 

That’s why the United States was the very first nation to recognize the State of Israel 65 years ago.  That’s why the Star of David and the Stars and Stripes fly together today.  And that is why I’m confident in declaring that our alliance is eternal, it is forever – lanetzach.

 

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

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