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Bush in Israel

Last updated: 2008-01-09

President George Bush in Israel

President George Bush

US President George Bush has arrived in Israel and stressed the importance of its security as a Jewish state.

Bush landed at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport shortly before noon Wednesday for his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"The United States and Israel are strong allies," Bush said after a red carpet reception at Ben Gurion 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," he 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.

(c) JTA