ARRIVAL IN JERUSALEM
A group of nine men, including Israel's Ambassador to the United States (XXx) waited to greet Obama on the tarmac. Your pool was told that one of them was Sallai Meridor, Israel's ambassador to the USA. At about 10:50 p.m. local, the senator emerged from the plane and, after greeting the group at the foot of the stairs, walked straight over to a pair of microphones stationed by waiting reporters and delivered a brief (just under 2 minute) statement.
Assuming full transcript will soon be available, here are the highlights:
Obama said he is looking forward to "having discussions with Israeli's leadership about some of the profound security issues" that the that the US and Israel face. "I want input and insight," said Obama, who added that he's also looking forward to sharing some of his ideas.
"The most important idea for me to reaffirm is the historic and special relationship between the United States and Israel, one that cannot be broken, one that I have affirmed throughout my career, and one that I intend to not only continue but actually strengthen in an Obama administration," the senator said.
He repeated his condemnation of the day's bulldozer bombing and expressed sympathy with the victims' families. Obama called the incident "a terrible tragedy" and "one more reminder of why we have to work diligently, urgently and in a unified way to defeat terrorism."
Obama left without taking questions, and jumped in a motorcade for a high-speed, 35-minute ride into Jerusalem (a ride that usually takes about twice as long). The road appeared to have been cleared of all other traffic.
As Obama pulled into the King David Hotel, there was a group of about a dozen people standing on across the street holding McCain signs. A couple read "Ohio Democrats for Israel: John McCain." We also saw some "Florida Democrats for Israel" in the group.
DEPARTURE FROM AMMAN
Your pool remained in a hold at a building next to the residence following Sen. Obama's arrival. We were told that Sens. Hagel and Reed arrived and held meetings with other Jordanian officials before the dinner.
At about 9 p.m., we loaded into the vans for the ride to the airport. There were about 12 vehicles in the motorcade. It was not until we arrived at the airport that your pool became aware the king himself was chauffeuring Obama. If Amman has a speed limit, he probably broke it.
Surprisingly, there was other traffic on the road we travelled. At one point, we passed a vehicle so laden with baskets it was hard to tell what was underneath. There was a stretch of road where many people had pulled onto the shoulder and sat outside their cars, picnicking under the stars. We spotted three camels loping along the berm, with passengers aboard.