(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- President Obama arrived in Israel Wednesday for his first presidential trip to the country.
Speaking at an airport ceremony in Tel Aviv, Obama, who is on a four-day tour of the Middle East, said he sees his visit to Israel "as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security."
"The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend," the president said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Obama at the ceremony, thanking him "for unequivically 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," Netanyahu said.
During his visit to Israel, Obama will meet with Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
The centerpiece of his trip, however, will be his speech to the Israeli people, in which he will underscore the strong ties between the U.S. and Israel.
While many of his predecessors have delivered remarks at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, Obama is opting to address Israeli youth and government officials at the convention center in Jerusalem instead.
The president will also travel to the West Bank to Ramallah, where he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders, who are frustrated with Obama’s staunch opposition to their bid for statehood through the United Nations.
Obama will visit Bethlehem as well to tour the Church of the Nativity, considered to be located on the site where Jesus was born. The cultural stop is also an attempt to highlight some of the challenges facing the Christian communities in the region.
Then, Obama is off to Jordan, where he will tour the sites of Petra and meet with King Abdullah to discuss a range of issues, including the crisis in Syria.
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