PM Olmert: "Your decision to celebrate this historic milestone with us is an extraordinary gesture of friendship and is further evidence of your unending commitment to the security and well-being of our country."

 US President Bush visits Israel for 60th anniversary


President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert in Jerusalem     (Photo: Reuters)

United States President George W. Bush landed in Israel on May 14, 2008, accompanied by his wife, Laura, for a three-day visit in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary of independence. He was welcomed at the airport by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

President Peres mentioned the warm friendship the American president has always shown towards Israel, standing at Israel’s side "in sunny mornings and stormy weather." He also praised the president’s "determined dedication to the promotion of peace and security in the entire region."

Prime Minister Olmert emphasized Israel’s "strategic alliance with America" and the bond between the two peoples. He also stated that, in his almost eight years of office, "President George Bush has been our closest ally and partner."

President Bush thanked the president and prime minister for their warm welcome, and noted the many similarities between Israel and the United States: "Our two nations both faced great challenges when they were founded, and our two nations have both relied on the same principles to help us succeed. We’ve built strong democracies to protect the freedoms given to us by an Almighty God. We’ve welcomed immigrants, who have helped us thrive. We’ve built prosperous economies by rewarding innovation and risk-taking and trade. And we’ve built an enduring alliance to confront terrorists and tyrants." He went on to say that during his visit, he would discuss his ideas for advancing common ideals and continuing the 60-year partnership between the two nations.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post at the White House the day before he left for Israel, President Bush said, "The biggest long-term threat to peace in the Middle East is Iran. Of all the people who understand the existential threat that the Iranians pose, it’s the Israelis… Ideological conflicts require a combination of force and vision in order to marginalize and defeat… I can assure you that al-Qaida, Hamas and Hizbullah don’t think about the comforts of life. They are driven." He also said that he hoped history would see him as "a guy who clearly saw the world the way it is … clearly saw the threat and did something about it."

On the president’s agenda are meetings with the Israeli president and prime minister; attendance at the "Facing Tomorrow" presidential conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem; a tour of Massada in the Judean desert; a ceremony and address at the Knesset; a reception at the Israel Museum; dinner with the Prime Minister and Mrs. Olmert; and a visit to the Bible Lands Museum. The First Lady is scheduled to tour a clinic and a school with Aliza Olmert and will join the President for some of his activities.