In Israel, President Bush stressed the importance of Israel’s security as a Jewish state.
Bush landed at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv shortly before noon Wednesday, kicking off his first visit as president to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“The United States and Israel are strong allies,” the American leader said after a red carpet reception at the airport by Israeli political and religious leaders and by an honor guard. “The source of that strength is a shared belief in the power of human freedom. Our people built two great democracies under difficult circumstances.
“The alliance between our two nations helps guarantee Israel’s security as a Jewish state,” Bush added.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres delivered words of welcome for Bush, who is expected to use his three-day stay to try to bring the Jewish state and Palestinians closer to a peace accord.
The Israelis also intend to press Bush on the need to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.
Bush is launching an eight-day tour of the region to reinforce his commitment in his final year in office to bringing about the outline of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Israel wants the Palestinians and Arab states to recognize its Jewish status as part of the process.