U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in Israel for what the White House is calling a very important trip that includes later stops in the West Bank and Jordan.
Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Mr. Obama as he walked off his plane at Ben Gurion airport Wednesday, with the U.S. president telling the men it is "wonderful to be here."
His schedule Wednesday includes seeing a piece of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as talks with Mr. Peres and Mr. Netanyahu on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program and the crisis in Syria.
The trip is Mr. Obama's first official visit to Israel since taking office in 2009.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is joining Mr. Obama for the tour, which comes as a new Israeli government featuring pro-settlement ministers takes office.
Mr. Obama is set to travel to the West Bank on Thursday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
On Friday, his schedule includes talks with King Abdullah in Jordan, where the United States has been helping officials cope with the flood of Syrian refugees.
In addition to the meetings, Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit a set of cultural and religious sites in the region, including seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum and a stop at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says there is no substitute for Mr. Obama delivering his message of support for Israel's security directly to the Israeli people.
Rhodes also says the United States has made a significant investment in the Palestinian Authority, which he calls the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people.
But Palestinians say they have been disappointed with Mr. Obama so far, and see little reason for optimism in his second term.