WASHINGTON – Joe Biden called his inauguration day “America’s day” as he was sworn in as US president on Wednesday, saying the time had come to end the “uncivil war” and unite the country.Shortly before noon, under heavy security arrangements and with minimal in-person attendance due to the deadly global novel coronavirus pandemic, Biden took the oath of office “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” becoming the 46th president of the US.Kamala Harris was sworn in as the 49th vice president. She is the first woman, the first black person, and the first South Asian person to serve in the role.“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” said Biden in his inaugural address.“With unity, we can do great things, important things,” Biden continued. “We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus.”“Let’s start afresh, all of us,” he said. “Let’s begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another.”He went on to say that “politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”He also addressed the sharp political division in America, and said that “disagreement must not lead to disunion.”“I pledge this to you, I will be a president for all Americans,” said Biden. “And I promise you, I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”Downtown Washington looked like a fortress, with an unprecedented military presence for an inauguration ceremony. Some 25,000 National Guard troops patrolled back and forth in the nation’s capital, and many miles of roads were closed to traffic, barricaded with a high metal fence topped with razor wires.Virtually all the businesses around the White House were closed, with the exception of several coffee shops. Many buildings were boarded up, and Washingtonians, for the most part, heeded the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser and stayed home. A few dozens of people gathered at the Black Lives Matter Plaza outside the White House. They listened to Biden’s speech on speakers and cheered as he took the oath of office.In several neighborhoods, residents were seen cheering on their porches. Bob Rackleff, a retired speechwriter from Tallahassee, Florida, lived in Washington and visited for the inauguration.“It feels wonderful to be here,” he said. It’s unfortunate that it’s having to happen with such security because of the riot that happened two weeks ago, but we’re glad to be here. We assumed that we wouldn’t be able to get any closer than this. So we’re going to a friend’s house right now to watch it on TV.” Kelly Fenton arrived from Los Angeles with six of her family members.“We booked this trip the week Biden was elected, and we were hoping we would be able to attend and witness the inauguration,” she said. “We understand why we can’t do that, but we still wanted to be in DC. We feel like we’re still here being so close.”She said that following the Capitol Hill riots on January 6, they had second thoughts about traveling to Washington. “We had to talk about it as a family. We all decided this is probably one of the safest places to be right now. Again, it’s not the experience that you were expecting, but we’re all still happy to be here.”The president enters the White House as America is bitterly divided following possibly the most contentious postelection period in American history. He will face immediate challenges, from rolling out an effective vaccine plan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic that took the lives of over 400,000 Americans to boosting the economy with a $1.9 trillion stimulus package.He was said to issue a series of executive actions on his first day in office, from rejoining the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization to starting the “100 days masking challenge,” calling to wear masks at federal property. He was also reportedly about to call on Congress to grant permanent status and a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers,” and halt building a wall along the US-Mexico border.Outgoing president Donald Trump departed from the White House yesterday morning for his Palm Beach resort. Breaking a tradition that lasted over a century, he did not attend his successor’s inauguration. His vice president, Mike Pence, however, did take part in the inauguration ceremony.Trump, as is customary, left a note on the Resolute desk for Biden. Speaking at a send-off event at Joint Base Andrews, Trump addressed supporters before taking off on Air Force One.“We have the greatest country in the world,” he said. “We have the greatest economy in the world, and as bad as the pandemic was, we were hit so hard just like the entire world was hit so hard.”In his final hours in office, Trump granted pardons to 73 individuals and commuted an additional 70 individuals’ sentences, including that of former adviser Steve Bannon.Aviem Sella, who was one of Jonathan Pollard’s handlers, also received a full pardon from Trump.“Mr. Sella’s request for clemency is supported by the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, the United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Miriam Adelson,” the White House said in a statement. “The State of Israel has issued a full and unequivocal apology, and has requested the pardon in order to close this unfortunate chapter in US-Israel relations.”On Tuesday night, Trump released a video address, summing up his term at the White House.“Our agenda was not about Right or Left, it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation, and that means the whole nation,” he said.“As a result of our bold diplomacy and principled realism, we achieved a series of historic peace deals in the Middle East. It is the dawn of a new Middle East and we are bringing our soldiers home,” Trump added.He went on to say that “all Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated.“Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” he said.The Wall Street Journal reported that the former president is mulling the option of establishing a new party.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Biden and Harris on their being sworn in and being inaugurated yesterday.Netanyahu referred to his “warm friendship going back many decades” with the new president.“I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the US-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran,” Netanyahu said.The prime minister wished Biden “the greatest success.”“God bless the United States of America. God bless Israel,” he added.Netanyahu also thanked former president Donald Trump “for all the great things you have done for Israel, especially your historic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and bringing four peace agreements between Israel and the Arab world.”President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter of congratulations to Biden, wishing him success.“Mr. President, sometimes even the obvious has to be said,” Rivlin wrote. “The United States of America has no greater friend than the State of Israel, and the American people have no greater friend than the Israeli people. Our relationship crosses partisan politics, is rooted in shared values of democracy and freedom, and has the overwhelming support of both our peoples.“We have no doubt that under your presidency the United States remains committed to the security and prosperity of Israel.”Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.