US vice president Mike Pence said it was an honour to be in “Israel’s capital, Jerusalem” as he met the country’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr Netanyahu told Mr Pence it was the first time a visiting dignitary could utter those three words along with him, and he thanked Mr Pence for President Donald Trump’s “historic” recognition of Jerusalem.
The Israeli leader also lauded the American-Israeli alliance, which he said has “never been stronger”.
The brief exchange was part of an exceptionally warm welcome for Mr Pence in Israel, which has praised the Trump administration’s decision last month to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The decision, though, has infuriated the Palestinians, with whom Mr Pence is not meeting, and upset America’s Arab allies as well.
Mr Pence placed his right hand over his heart as an honour guard greeted him with the American national anthem.
An honor to be in Israel w/ Prime Minister @netanyahu. Important discussions about the opportunity for peace in the region and the security & prosperity of both Israel & the U.S. We continue to work tirelessly to strengthen the relationship between the U.S & Israel. #VPinIsrael pic.twitter.com/p9WCU99Mnr
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 22, 2018
White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, US ambassador David Friedman and the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, joined the ceremony and Mr Pence chatted briefly with Israeli soldiers before beginning his meeting with Mr Netanyahu.
Mr Pence said he was grateful to be representing Mr Trump and that his decision to designate Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would “create an opportunity to move on in good faith negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority”.
The vice president said he was hopeful “we are at the dawn of a new era of renewed discussions to achieve a peaceful resolution to a decades-long conflict”.
Prior to his arrival, Mr Pence visited Egypt and Jordan, where he was warned by King Abdullah II that he had to “rebuild trust and confidence” after the Jerusalem move.
Mr Pence is set to deliver a speech to the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, later in the day.