Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday toured the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier as it anchored off the coast of Haifa, and told told US sailors aboard the ship that it is a symbol of “freedom and victory.”
“This great aircraft carrier is a floating island of America. It’s a symbol to the world of freedom and victory,” he said in an English speech aboard the world’s largest warship.
“The war against ISIS should be seen for what it is: a clash between good and evil. And every sailor on this ship should be immensely proud that you are serving good,” Netanyahu said.
“Israel too is a symbol to the world of freedom, victory, and it too helps secure the world against terror. It too is on the front line of the battle between civilization and darkness,” the premier added. “I thank you, the people of Israel thank you, and the free world thanks you.”
Netanyahu was accompanied aboard by his wife Sara, as well as US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who said vessels such as the USS George H.W. Bush enable the United States “to lead the free world.”
Friedman also said that despite its storied history, it was the first time the aircraft carrier had ever hosted a world leader, which, he said, “speaks volumes to the unbreakable bind ties between the United States and the State of Israel.”
After landing on the deck of the aircraft carrier in a military helicopter, Netanyahu and his wife were given a tour of the inside of the vessel, including its control tower, where they spoke with crew members and gazed out at the ship’s massive frame and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.
Netanyahu also signed the aircraft carrier’s guestbook and was given a coin and hat with the ship’s logo.
The Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier docked outside Haifa port Saturday. It left its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia on January 21 and has been in the region since February as a base for airstrikes against the Islamic State terror group. It operates mainly in the Persian Gulf.
Commissioned in 2009, the 333m-long nuclear-powered ship can carry a crew of over 5,000 people, as well as around 90 fighter jets and helicopters. It is considered the world’s largest aircraft carrier and largest warship overall.
Due to its size, the ship is unable to enter the Haifa port itself, and dropped anchor four kilometers from the harbor.
The crew has been touring Israel and will celebrate American Independence Day on July 4 in the Jewish state.
The ship will depart on Wednesday to continue its operations.