JERUSALEM — Red lines. When it comes to the Middle East, President Obama is encountering them everywhere. They are painted on the ground as directional markers for visiting dignitaries, and they are in Obama’s and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy rhetoric as not-to-be-crossed warnings to Syria and Iran.
As Obama prepared to tour a missile battery that is part of Israel’s Iron Dome defenses, an aide at the Tel Aviv airport directed him to follow the red line on the tarmac.
‘‘Bibi’s always talking to me about red lines,’’ Obama quipped, referring to Netanyahu by his familiar name.
Netanyahu has set ‘‘red lines’’ on Iran’s nuclear development capabilities. Israel repeatedly has threatened to take military action should Iran appear to be on the verge of developing a bomb. The United States has pushed for more time to allow diplomacy and economic penalties to run their course, though Obama insists military action is an option. The issue has become a point of tension between the two allies.
Obama himself has used the phrase to describe limits that could prompt action against the Syrian government. Any use of chemical weapons by Syria, Obama has said, would constitute a ‘‘red line’’ that if breached could prompt direct US intervention.
Referring to the painted red lines at the airport, Obama joked that it was ‘‘a psychological ploy.’’
Netanyahu replied: ‘‘It was minutely planned.’’
President Obama received a rock star’s welcome at Israel’s international airport from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and other dignitaries.
Netanyahu’s new Cabinet, seated two days ago, lined up and excitedly shook hands with Obama, who chatted with each one as he moved down the line.
There were no signs of the sometimes frostiness between Netanyahu and Obama. The two smiled, joked, and warmly exchanged pleasantries throughout the day.
In his speech at the airport, Netanyahu kidded Obama about his desire to explore Israel incognito. Netanyahu said he could arrange a trip to the bars and cafes of Tel Aviv. ‘‘We even prepared a fake mustache for you,’’ he said.
Among the guests invited to dine Thursday with America’s first black president is Israel’s first black beauty queen.
Yityish ‘‘Titi’’ Aynaw, 21, who was named Miss Israel three weeks ago, is the first Ethiopian-born Israeli to wear the crown.
Israel began airlifting Ethiopian Jews — the fabled descendants of the Israelite tribe of Dan — three decades ago, but the community has complained of discrimination and has struggled to integrate into Israeli society.
Aynaw hopes to be a role model to her immigrant community — and says President Obama is her role model. In high school, she researched his biography and wrote a paper about his accomplishments.
President Shimon Peres invited her to attend Thursday night’s state dinner. She said if she gets a chance to speak to the US leader, she would thank him for inspiring her.
‘‘He paved a road, for people who want to dream and go far,’’ Aynaw said.