President Obama ended his first full day in Israel on Wednesday with a closed-press working dinner hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence. The Prime Minister's office tweeted the Instagram above, taken at the start meal, which began after 9:30 PM. The President and Prime Minister are seated across from each other at the white-clothed table, and Secretary of State John Kerry is beside the President. Next to Kerry is President Obama's closest confidante, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, in red.
"Mr. President, Barack, it’s a great pleasure for me to host you here in Jerusalem," Netanyahu said at a joint press conference ahead of the dinner. "I hope that the goodwill and warmth of the people of Israel has already made you feel at home."
"Very much so," President Obama responded.
Netanyahu formed his government just two days before the President's arrival, and other guests invited to the springtime-themed dinner created by an acclaimed Israeli chef included the heads of the coalition parties, Naftali Bennett, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, as well as Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the Times of Israel reported. Israel's Ambassador to the US, Michael B. Oren, was also at the dinner, for which no official guest list was released. But clearly there was celebrating, as the Instagram above shows: The guests raise their glasses in a toast. The photo was also tweeted by the Prime Minister's office, and the two photos are the only images released from the gathering.
Known in the past for their frosty relations, the President and the Prime Minister rained praise on each other during their press conference; the President called Mr. Netanyahu "Bibi," his nickname, at least four times. Both noted that since Mr. Obama became President, they've had ten meetings, more than President Obama has had with any other world leader.
"As Bibi mentioned, this is our tenth meeting," President Obama said. "...And this speaks to the closeness of our two nations, the interests and the values that we share, and the depth and breadth of the ties between our two peoples."
As he has many times before, President Obama pledged that "the security of the State of Israel is a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable." He hailed the "extraordinary bonds" between Israel and the US in his inscription in the Prime Minister's guest book, and during his jam-packed day of events spoke about a wide range of issues from Iran's nuclear threat to the economy, and the prospects for an enduring peace.
There was also an exchange of special gifts between the President and Prime Minister and Mrs. Sara Netanyahu, with meaningful items selected for the others' families. The Netanyahus chose a silver Passover seder plate for First Lady Michelle Obama, special necklaces for the First Daughters, and a rubber hamburger chew toy for First Dog Bo. The President presented the Prime Minister with a special historic artifact that referenced the long history of Jews in America.
The three-course dinner menu, "prepared from Israeli products," was created by acclaimed Israeli chef Shalom Kadosh. It opened with vegetable ravioli and a filet of red mullet, followed by roast beef fillet with aromatic spices and spring vegetables. The dessert was a special apple crumble with Gewurztraminer zabaglione, accompanied by fig and date petits fours. The PM's office tweeted the photo, above, of the chef at work on the meal earlier on Wednesday.
President Obama is a beef lover, for the record; most of his high-profile White House dinners feature beef as the entree. Kadosh also cooked for Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush when they visited Israel. Mr. Obama is the fifth US president to visit Israel.
Though the dinner was for work purposes, there was entertainment: The Prime Minister's office previously announced that singer Idan Raichel would perform. "Raichel will appear with several members of the Idan Raichel Project, including Maya Avraham and Kabra Kasai," said Netanyahu's office. "They will sing "Mima'amakim" and "Min Nhar Li Mshiti", and play an instrumental selection."
The President's day began with a formal arrival ceremony in Tel Aviv, and included a visit with President Shimon Peres at his Jerusalem residence for a bilateral meeting and a tree planting ceremony.
President Obama returned to the King David Hotel shortly after 11:00 PM, where he is staying for the duration of his visit. His schedule for Thursday includes events in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and ends with a State Dinner hosted by President Peres.
The President's full itinerary and links to all posts about his trip.
Above, the President with the PM and Mrs. Netanyahu before dinner.
Prime Minister Netanyahu's Dinner Menu
For President Obama
For President Obama
Ravioli filled with Confit of Jerusalem Artichokes
Filet of Red Mullet
Tossed with Green Soybeans
*Pink grapefruit and pomegranate sorbet to refresh the palate
Roast Fillet of Beef
in aromatic spices
A Selection of Spring Vegetables
mixed with red fruits
with citrus honey
Fig and Date Petits Fours
with caramelized green almonds
Coffee and Tea
The Guest Book inscription...
The President inscribed the Prime Minister's guestbook ahead of the evening dinner. The President is a lefty, and as he sat to write in the book, he paused to joke with Mrs. Netanyahu about the awkwardness of being a southpaw. (Above, a photo of the inscribing moment, tweeted by the PM's office on @Netanyahu)
President Obama wrote:
"It is a great honor to reaffirm the extraordinary bonds between our two countries. By every measure, from security to our economy, our cooperation has never been greater, and this is in part because of the strong commitment of Prime minister Netanyahu. May our bridges continue to grow on behalf of people and prosperity for all people."
*Photos by the Prime Minister's Office