Peres welcomes Obama, warns of Hezbollah

Following meeting with Peres, US president acknowledges difficulties facing Israel including Iran's nuclear program, peace with the Palestinians; looks to a future where Israeli children are "safe from threats and rockets."

Peres, Obama & kids at President's Residence 390 (photo credit: Uri Lentz/Pool)
Peres, Obama & kids at President's Residence 390
(photo credit: Uri Lentz/Pool)
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.
If Peres 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 to Israel
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 Peres.
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.
As 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 prevent.”
Peres also spoke of Israel’s efforts to renew negotiations with the Palestinians with the goal of a two-state solution.
He emphasized 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 Middle East.
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.”
Recalling 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 politician.
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.