President Shimon Peres often keeps his guests waiting from anywhere between five
and 20 minutes, but when the guest was US President Barack Obama, Peres was
waiting for him on the red carpet five minutes ahead of time.
was excited at the prospect of welcoming yet another American president, members
of his staff were more so, and got in the way of journalists as they eagerly
surged forward to photograph Obama with their cell phones.
But that was
not as bad as members of Obama’s security detail who blocked the vision of some
of the camera crews which had been positioned for hours waiting to finally get
the visiting president in the frames of their cameras. An angry shout went up,
and to their credit, the security people got the message.
Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit
Peres and Obama
embraced warmly at the President’s Residence in the capital as a group of 55
children from Jerusalem and environs began to wave American and Israeli flags
and to sing “Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem” (We Have Brought Peace to You) as a
symbolic gesture toward what is largely perceived as Obama’s purpose in visiting
Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Obama with a big grin on his face
walked half way along the line shaking hands with the youngsters and then posing
for photographs with them alongside Peres. After the photos he continued shaking
hands with the other half of the line. The youngsters had been rehearsing for
most of the day, so this was the reward.
Entering the main reception hall
Obama sat down at a table on the stage to sign the guest book. He wrote: “It is
a great honor to visit Israel and reaffirm years of friendship between our
countries and our people. It is my honor to be hosted by President Peres who has
contributed to every aspect of Israeli society.”
Obama then met five
Israeli children who thanked him individually for what America has done for them
in different spheres, and three of the five sang “Tomorrow,” a song expressing
the dream of all children to live in peace. They sang it in English, Arabic – in
which it’s called “Bukra” – and Hebrew (“Mahar”).
The two presidents then
went out into the garden to plant a tree which Obama had brought from the United
States as a sign of friendship between the two countries and between him and
As he had done in 2008 the last time he visited Israel while
campaigning for the presidency the first time around, he wanted to know the
secret of Peres’s longevity.
Later, after they had engaged in a working
meeting, he thanked Peres for having devoted his life to making Israel strong
and planting the seeds of progress, security and peace for future generations of
Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs across the region.
While Peres and Obama
were ensconced in their private meeting, journalists covering the visit took
turns photographing or being photographed alongside Obama’s shiny black Cadillac
with its Washington 800-002 number plate and its President of the United States
seal. The car, which was part of a large motorcade, had been led into the
presidential compound by a nine-member police motor cycle escort.
Peres and Obama emerged from their meeting to mount the stage and deliver
statements, Obama was leading, but stood aside in deference to the senior
statesman, while Peres stood aside in deference to his guest. Eventually Obama
went up first.
Peres, who earlier in the day at Ben-Gurion Airport
greeted Obama as “a dear friend,” again used the expression as he thanked him
for the long days and sleepless nights which Obama had spent in caring for
Israel and its future.
Peres voiced his confidence in Obama’s policy
towards Iran “which calls for non-military means with a clear statement that all
other options remain on the table.”
Turning to Obama he added, “You have
made it clear that your intention is not to contain but to
Peres also spoke of Israel’s efforts to renew negotiations with
the Palestinians with the goal of a two-state solution.
that Hamas remains a terror organization that targets innocent civilians,
stockpiles arms, is destroying Lebanon and supporting the brutal massacre of the
Syrian people. He also warned of the dangers that could emanate from Syria’s
arsenal of chemical weapons.
“We cannot allow those weapons to fall into
terrorist hands,” he insisted.
Peres said that after the meeting with
Obama he was more confident than ever that Obama’s vision can transform the
Alluding to the “Tomorrow” song and what the singers had
said to him, Obama said, “Their dreams are much the same as those of children
everywhere, but their lives reflect a difficult reality.”
Peres’s visit to Washington last year when Obama had presented him with the
Freedom Medal, Obama said that one of the advantages of talking to Peres was
that he was not only a man of vision but also a practical- minded
He also assured Peres that the State of Israel will have no
greater friend than the United States.
Once they were outside there was
more flag waving by the children who sang “Hallelujah,” the song that won Israel
the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest. Obama stopped to shake hands with some of the
youngsters, then set off for his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.