White House hopeful Barack Obama hailed the "miracle" of Israel on Wednesday, as he met top officials on the latest leg of his international campaign tour.
The Democratic senator opened his day with talks with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who was later set to join him on a helicopter tour of Israel's topography.
The 46 year old Obama paid his respects to Israeli president Shimon Peres, saying he had been a key player for most of Israel's 60 years. "You have been deeply involved in this miracle that has blossomed and we are extraordinarily grateful not just as Americans but as world citizens for your outstanding service to your country," Obama said, according to AFP. "You are someone who has forgotten more than I will ever know on these issues."
Obama pledged Wednesday that as president he would preserve the close relationship between the two states, and pledged that Israel's security would be a top priority in his administration. "I'm here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel's security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a U.S. senator or as president," Obama said during the meeting with Peres.
Later Wednesday, Obama was also due in Sderot, a southern Israeli town that has long been in the firing line of rockets and mortars from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.