US President George Bush pledged America’s constant support as “Israel’s oldest and best friend in the world” on Wednesday during his keynote address to Shimon Peres’s President’s Conference in Jerusalem.
Previewing a speech he was to make to the Knesset on Thursday, Mr Bush said: “I will talk about the day when I believe that every child in the Middle East can live in peace and freedom.
“With trust in the rock of Israel, that day will come. And when it does, America will be by your side. God bless Israel and God bless America.”
Mr Bush was making his second visit to Israel in four months. But this was more of a social than a political visit, scheduled to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary. “As a person who’s 61 years old, it doesn’t seem that old,” he said earlier in the day.
Jerusalem became a city under a security cordon during the two-day visit. Some 14,000 police officers were on duty for what was being called “Operation Clear Skies 2”. After Mr Bush arrived by helicopter, streets were closed, including the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway.
King David Street, where the Bush contingent was based in the King David Hotel, remained closed for the visit.