03/20/2013 08:58 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2013

Tree Planted By Obama In Israel May Be Dug Up For Testing: Reports (UPDATED)

UPDATE: March 21 -- The Israeli Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement that the tree will not be removed from the ground:

The Office of the President and the Ministry of Agriculture would like to clarify that, contrary to recent reports, the magnolia tree, given as a gift to President Peres by the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, and planted in the garden of the resident will not be removed from its place. The relevant authority in the Ministry of Agriculture will conduct all the necessary tests in accordance with the law within the garden of the president's residence without removing the tree from the place where it was planted, as was agreed.

Previously: A tree planted by President Barack Obama in Israel may soon be removed from the ground, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

The president traveled to Israel as part of a tour of the Middle East, his first visit to the country as president. On Wednesday, Obama met with Israeli President Shimon Peres at his Jerusalem residence, where he planted the magnolia tree.

A White House pool report offered details on the planting:

POTUS and President Peres strolled together in the late-afternoon sunlight to gaze at fig and olive trees and then to dedicate a small magnolia tree that is a gift of POTUS.

"A magnolia tree, just like what we have outside the White House," Obama said to reporters. "I want everyone to know, this was on Air Force One."

Turning over two spades of dirt on the freshly-planted tree, Obama said, "It is an incredible honor to offer this tree to this beautiful garden, and to someone who is champion of the Israeli people and a champion of peace."

"And we're very good gardeners," POTUS added.

However, the tree may soon be dug up. The Guardian reports that, under Israeli Ministry of Agriculture rules for all plants brought into the country, the tree must under go routine testing. In order to complete the tests, ministry officials may have to remove the tree from the ground.

According to the Times of Israel, the tree was transported on Air Force One with plastic netting over its roots. The covering remained on the tree during the planting, but will be removed once the plant passes inspections.



Obama Visits The Middle East