US President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 20, 2013 near Tel Aviv, Israel. This will be Obama's first visit as President to the region, and his itinerary will include meetings with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty images)
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - President Barack Obama is declaring common cause with Israel, highlighting the bonds between the United States and its Mideast ally.
He says he has made Israel the first stop of the first trip of his second term to restate his commitment to Israel's security.
Obama arrived Wednesday in Tel Aviv, joking to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he was "getting away from Congress."
Israeli President Shimon Peres welcomed Obama, declaring that "A world without America's leadership, without her moral voice, would be a darker world. A world without your friendship, would invite aggression against Israel."
Obama called the U.S. Israel's "strongest ally and your greatest friend." In a veiled reference to tensions and regime changes in the region, he added: "The winds of change bring both promise and peril."
The Associated Press