Renewing U.S. support for the difficult "work of generations," President Barack Obama assured Israel on Wednesday that his administration would pursue an elusive Mideast peace that would allow residents of the Jewish state to live in peace and free from the threat of terror.
"In this work, the state of Israel will have no greater friend than the United States," the president declared after meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres during his first visit to Israel as president.
Peres, in turn, said he welcomed Obama's clear message that "no one should let skepticism win the day, a vision that says clearly that peace is not only a wish, but a possibility."
Obama was meeting later with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and holding a joint press conference with the Israeli leader, who has just formed a new government.
At an extravagant welcoming ceremony, Obama sounded a message that "peace must come to the Holy Land" and that goal would not be achieved at Israel's expense. U.S. backing for Israel will be a constant as the Middle East roils with revolution and Iran continues work on its nuclear program, he said.
"The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend," Obama affirmed, as soon as he landed on the tarmac at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport.
"Across this region the winds of change bring both promise and peril," he said, calling his visit "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 neighbours."
Seeking to alter a perception among many Israelis that his government has been less supportive of Israel than previous U.S. administrations, Obama declared the U.S.-Israeli alliance "eternal."
"It is forever," he said to applause as Israeli and U.S. flags fluttered in a steady breeze under clear, sunny skies.