The hulking vehicle, nicknamed “the Beast” for its supposed robustness in the face of potential attacks, juddered to a halt on the motorway between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem.
An Israeli government official said the car may have broke down after it was mistakenly filled with diesel fuel rather than petrol. There was also a suggestion it had run out of fuel, he said.
The Secret Service said it did not yet know what had caused the breakdown, and the driver of a tow-truck called to remove the car said he did not know if a fuel mix-up was behind the incident.
The sleek black limo had been flown in specially from the US for Mr Obama’s visit.
Fortunately for the president, the breakdown happened two hours before his plane, Air Force One, touched down on Israeli soil, sparing him the embarrassment of a possible incident after his arrival in the Holy Land.
Mr Obama travelled from the airport to Jerusalem by helicopter as scheduled.
The car, which was intended to transport him around Jerusalem, was being replaced by a substitute limousine being driven in from Jordan, which Mr Obama will visit on Friday.
Moti Matmon, owner of a local tow-truck company, said the US Consulate in Jerusalem called him at around 10am local time to ask him to recover the stricken vehicle.
“They told me that this was Obama’s car,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“They didn’t say what had happened to it. They just said it had got stuck. Only the mechanic was there when I arrived. The driver had left in another car. The whole thing was very funny.”
Mr Matmon said he transported the limo to a garage in Jerusalem, where it is now under repair.