Secretary Clinton’s first stop on her inaugural official visit to Israel was at the residence of Israeli President Shimon Peres. Completed in 1971, the building was constructed from pink granite, Jerusalem stone, and exposed concrete. But what makes the scene come alive is the display of artwork reflecting Israel’s rich cultural heritage – all of it creates a beautiful backdrop. After 60 years of diplomatic relations and friendship, this is the place where Israel would welcome the Secretary and where the Secretary would begin her very busy day in Jerusalem.
For those of us already at the site, waiting for the Secretary to arrive unites feelings of excitement and nervousness. The staff of the residence made final preparations; Israeli and international camera crews trickled in and set up their equipment. As with most visits of this kind, the visuals would be critical to communicating the messages the Secretary was expected to bring with her. With everything in place, the motorcade arrived and the Secretary was met by President Peres. They shook hands and kissed, smiled broadly, paused for photos, and headed inside. Their actual meeting was held in a room off the main hall with the principals and delegation members attending.
The Secretary and President Peres emerged 45 minutes later and proceeded to lecterns where they made short statements to the press. Both statements conveyed the seriousness of the issues that had been discussed – security, peace, the situation in Gaza – but also articulated the shared optimism of the present moment. President Peres expressed words of welcome to the Secretary on behalf of Israel. In turn, the Secretary talked about her numerous trips to Israel over the past 30 years and her close friendship with the country’s current president. More photos were taken as President Peres presented the Secretary with a small bouquet – a great shot! The Secretary then signed the official guest book and moved toward the door, escorted by President Peres, and followed by her delegation and the traveling press. Goodbyes were exchanged, the Secretary stepped inside her car, and the motorcade rolled out. The renewal of the Israeli-American diplomatic friendship was off to a warm and friendly start.