- U.S. President Barack Obama makes his first trip to Israel of his presidency
- Obama’s limo- dubbed The Beast- broke after the driver put gas in the tank instead of diesel
- All eyes on Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the two leaders are known to have a rocky relationship
- Israelis are already infuriated by the trip as it comes just days before Passover and Obama’s security protocols shut down much of Jerusalem
President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Israel this morning had an embarrassing setback when his armored limo broke down on the way to the airport.
The custom General Motors Cadillac limo was relegated to a pick up truck after the driver accidentally put gas in the tank instead of diesel.
Mr Obama arrived in Tel Aviv Wednesday afternoon local time, and earlier that morning, the limo that was designated to his hotel was unable to move after the driver made the silly mistake.
Local news reports allege that it was the President’s limo that was shipped over specially from Washington that broke down so he was forced to use the second vehicle that they brought over from the U.S.
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Touchdown: President Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday for his first official trip to the region as President
Big mistake: The 18-foot car has an tank that holds 6.5 liters of diesel, and does not work when given gas
Can’t take it: The car had to be picked up on a tow truck and it is unclear whether the problem was quickly fixed
Careful crop: From this angle, the downed Cadillac could have been a small four door, but that clearly isn’t the case
Quick: Just a few hours later, President Obama got into the back up vehicle that they brought from D.C.
The car was pictured by local station 24 Hour News when it was on the back of a flatbed truck.
Since the car was not able to take him from the airport, thankfully Obama was always scheduled to leave the airport via helicopter in order to avoid passing through the Palestinian checkpoints that interrupt the route from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem.
The United States Secret Service put out a statement about the incident, saying that it was a situation where it pays for them to be prepared.
‘One of our protective vehicles experienced mechanical problems in Israel earlier today. This is why we bring multiple vehicles and a mechanic on all trips,’ said Edwin Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service.
‘Situations like this are planned for extensively by our advance teams so that the President’s itinerary is unaffected by these types of issues.’
They did not confirm that whether or not the driver used gas or diesel, and if that was the cause of the malfunction.
All of the specs: Leading up to his visit to the UK in 2011, the Daily Mail broke down the details of The Beast
American made: The car that President Obama drove off in after speaking at President Peres’ house was definitely an incarnation of ‘The Beast’ given it’s Washington DC license plates and 5-inch-thick doors
Happy traveler: Mr Obama smiled as he rode off in the second car that they had brought for his trip
Making his way: The schedule is filled with various meetings throughout the day
President Obama’s first stop was to Israeli President Shimon Peres’ house, and after planting a ceremonial tree and giving brief scripted remarks, he drove off in an armored limo.
Given the Secret Service statement, it appears that the President drove off in the second limo while the American technician worked on the first.
The President started off the trip by apologizing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he was overheard saying: ‘it’s embarrassing, our entourage. My wife, Michelle, teases me mercilessly’.
Problem: The important trip to Israel had its first hiccup before the President even arrived as his limo- dubbed ‘The Beast’- broke down after the driver put gas in the tank instead of diesel
Make way: Obama has also come under fire for requiring so many of the streets of Jerusalem to be closed for security even though it is the lead up to the very busy holiday weekend of Passover
Before it broke: The presidential limo was on the way to the airport when it stalled out because of the wrong fuel
DEFEATING ‘THE BEAST’: HOW THE DRIVER BROKE OBAMA’S LIMO
The President’s comfortable travel is not limited to the air, as he always has his custom limo shipped overseas when he goes abroad.
The 18-foot Cadillac limo is made with military-grade armor that is at least five-inches thick and developed out of a combination of steel, aluminum, titanium and ceramic.
It comes equipped to take on almost anything, as it is armed with its own tear gas cannons, pump-action shotguns.
The most unusual accessory in this seven-person vehicle is the on board bottles of the President’s blood in case he needs a transfusion on the road.
Ignoring all of the bells and whistles, the one truly important fact that was overlooked by the driver this morning is that the engine runs on diesel and holds 6.5 liters.
All told, the car is said to cost more than $1.5million.
He isn’t kidding about the fact that he travels with a crew: the Israeli government issued a press kit that reports the President has a 600-person entourage, and they will occupy all 233 rooms in the King David Hotel during their stay.
By comparison, Madonna has a 200-person entourage when she tours, meaning that the President has a crew three-times the size of the best-known Material Girl.
Mr Obama must enjoy hanging out with a familiar group, as he reportedly agreed to do a cameo in the upcoming movie version of the show ‘Entourage’.
Upon touchdown he called the U.S. Israel’s ‘strongest ally and your greatest friend.’
The kind words were traded on both sides, as Israeli President Shimon Peres welcomed Obama, declaring that ‘A world without America’s leadership, without her moral voice, would be a darker world.
‘A world without your friendship, would invite aggression against Israel.’
In a veiled reference to tensions and regime changes in the region, President Obama added: ‘The winds of change bring both promise and peril.’
‘I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm America’s unbreakable bond and a chance to speak directly to Israelis and your neighbors,’ President Obama said in remarks made at the airport.
Welcoming: Much of the trip will be focused on how President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu interact as their relationship is known to be frosty
Headed down the path together: Israel is looking for the United States to take a firm stance against Iran and their fledgling nuclear program as it is seen as the biggest threat to the Jewish state
Matching moves: Both the President and the Prime Minister were recently re-elected so there is a need for them to work out their personal difficulties and find a way to collaborate
Proud pals: Prime Minister Netanyahu posted this picture to his personal Twitter account
‘The United States stands with Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel.
‘We stand together because we share a common story patriots.
‘Our alliance is eternal, it is forever.’
In their personal interactions, President Obama said that it was ‘good to see you, brother’ to President Shimon Peres.
To Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he joked that it is ‘good to see you.. and it’s good to get away from Congress’.
President Barack Obama has arrived in Israel amid high security for crucial talks on the Israel/Palestine peace settlement, Syria and Iran.
In what is Mr Obama’s first trip to Israel as President, he is expected to reassure America’s top ally in the region that the country is still high on his agenda, and a number of public events are supposed to help reassure a nervous Israeli public.
That said, some actions speak louder than words as many have already begun resenting the visit because of the timing- just days before Passover.
Important visit: The trip is seen as a clear way for the President to show his alliegence to the region and its people, and will have serious talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right of Obama) and President Shimon Peres (left of Obama)
Respectful: The three leaders listen to the national anthem shortly after Obama touched down in Tel Aviv
In order to secure the tense region for President Obama, an unprecedented number of roads have been closed, effectively shutting down much of Jerusalem during the height of the religious season.
Visitors to the Holy Land are stuck in unexpected gridlock while other residents are unable to make it to the city’s sole produce market by car and all public buses are being diverted from their regular routes.
The White House has deliberately minimized hopes of any major political breakthroughs during the trip, a reversal from Obama’s first four years in office when aides said he would visit the Jewish state only if he had something concrete to accomplish.
Workers have hung hundreds of U.S. and Israel flags on lamp posts across Jerusalem, as well as banners that boast of ‘an unbreakable alliance.’ But the apparent lack of any substantial policy push has bemused many diplomats and analysts.
Serious shake: Obama sparred frequently with Netanyahu over the Palestinian peace process during his first term
Looking ahead: Both Obama and Netanyahu were recently elected to new terms in office
Optics: The public events will be important as both Obama and Netanyahu are expected to put on a strong front to express a strong tie between the two men
‘To tell the truth, they can’t stand one another,’ a commentator for Israel’s Channel 10 television said of Obama and Netanyahu just as Air Force One landed in Israel
Reassurances: President Shimon Peres said in an interview shortly before Obama’s arrival that he feels more confident now that the U.S. will support Israel against Iran if the ever developed a nuclear weapon
With both Obama and Netanyahu just starting new terms and mindful that they will have to work together on volatile issues for years to come, they will be looking to avoid the kind of public confrontation that has marked past encounters.
‘To tell the truth, they can’t stand one another,’ a commentator for Israel’s Channel 10 television said in a live broadcast from the airport as Air Force One came to a halt.
Signaling the emphasis being placed on symbolic gestures, the U.S. president will inspect an Iron Dome anti-missile battery at Tel Aviv airport before flying up to Jerusalem by helicopter for the start of his official meetings.
The White House has touted the U.S.-funded system, which has helped protect Israelis from Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza, as a prime example of Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security – a message likely to be rammed home during the trip. Annual U.S. military aid to Israel is put at $3billion.
Tense: Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu (right) have not had the closest of relationships in the past
Being heard: Mr Obama will spend much of his trip in Israel talking with President Peres (left) and Prime Minister Netanyahu (right)
Bring it in: Obama gives big hugs to both Peres (left) and Netanyahu (right)
Seeking to connect directly with an often skeptical Israeli public, Obama will make a speech to a group of carefully screened students on Thursday afternoon where he is expected to touch on major topics of concern, including Iran.
Support: The visit is a critical one for Obama because he was frequently criticized during the 2012 election for being lighthearted in his support for the ally
Style points: The itinerary is laden more with symbolism than substance, as Israel is increasingly wary of developments in Syria and Iran is Mr Obama’s main focus
Expectant: Members of the Israeli military prepare for the President’s arrival at Ben Gurion airport
Historic: Mr Obama visited the country in 2008 shortly after he was nominated to the Presidency but before he took office, so this visit is both the first of his second term and the first of his time in office
During the three-day visit, Mr Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He will also be making his first trips as president to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan this week.
After an arrival ceremony at the airport, Mr Obama headed to Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli leaders.
Mr Obama arrived to face an Israeli leadership and public anxious to hear the president affirm America’s commitment to the security of the Jewish state while standing on their soil.
Mr Obama sparred frequently with Netanyahu over the Palestinian peace process during his first term.
And despite public assurances from both sides that relations otherwise remained solid, the president endured four years of criticism from pro-Israel advocates and conservatives in the US and numerous commentators in Israel for not doing enough to back the Middle East’s only stable democracy in the face of growing threats to its existence.
Controversial: Palestinian protestors used their flag and Martin Luther King’s face to make their point
Hateful: Palestinians burned effigies to protest the American President’s arrival
For the spectacle: The protestors were purposeful in having photographers around when they lit the effigies ablaze on Wednesday
In pieces: Jerusalem is covered in American flags for Obama’s arrival but some of them were clearly used in different ways that initially intended
Controversial: Though the leaders may be happy to see him, there were protests in the Gaza Strip when he touched down
Turmoil: A number of the protestors were relatives of prisoners of Palestinians held in Israeli jails
Lost in translation: Many protestors had pointed messages, this one which was meant to be a play on the famous Martin Luther King Jr ‘I have a dream’ speech
So even though US officials have set expectations low and previewed no significant policy announcements, there is a clear metric to measure the success of Obama’s three-day stay in Israel and the West Bank: how much he is able to reverse the perception that his administration is not fully committed to Israel’s security.
Mr Obama will finish his Middle East trip with a 24-hour stop in Jordan, an important US ally, where his focus will be on the violence in Syria.
More than 450,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan, crowding refugee camps and overwhelming aid organizations.
In his talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Mr Obama also will try to shore up the country’s fledgling attempts to liberalize its government and stave off an Arab Spring-style movement similar to the ones that have taken down leaders elsewhere in the region.
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