President Rivlin to Obama: Israel Has No War With Islam

Obama says 'although the prospect of peace seems distant, we still need to try,' adding the meeting is 'an opportunity to reaffirm unbreakable bonds between Israel and U.S.'

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015
AP

WASHINGTON - President Reuven Rivlin met with with U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday and said that Israel has "no war with Islam." This is the first meeting between the two since Rivlin assumed the presidency.

The comments by Rivlin were made on the backdrop of the political and public anger in both Israel and the U.S. at comments made by Republican presidential-hopefull Donald Trump against Muslim.

At the opening of their meeting, Rivlin thanked Obama for his "statement against radicalization" and added that Israel was "going hand in hand" with his ideas. "We have no war against Islam. We have a war against those who are using ideas to create extremism and threat against innocent people," Rivlin said.  

Rivlin began by praising Obama and thanking him in the name of people of Israel for America's financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel.

"Israel has no greater friend than the U.S. and I want to say this loud and clear. The people of Israel thank you from the bottom of our heart," he said, adding that American support helps Israel deal with the threats it faces.

Obama for his part, began by reiterating his commitment to Israel's security and stressed that it was "one of the most important principals of U.S. foreign policy – under Republican and Democrat administrations alike."

Obama also praised Rivlin for his efforts in "promote dialogue" – both with Palestinian and between Jews and Arabs within Israel.

Obama used the opportunity to condemn Palestinian violence, and said "Abbas needs to condemn it and end incitement." The president added that there was a "need to find mechanisms for Israelis and Palestinians to have a dialoguealthough the prospect of peace seems distant we still need to try."

During the briefing of the press, Rivlin and Obama seemed warm and friendly, smiling and exchanging long handshakes. The U.S. president stressed that his wife Michelle and himself were glad to host Israel's first couple for the White House's annual Hanukkah party.

Rivlin for his part compared Obama to the shamash – the main candle in the Hanukkah menorah – and said "the shamash is the leader with which you light the other candles. You have been lighting the candles for seven years to show your people and the world the right way – we sure that the eighth candle you will light next year will show the world how to walk in the light."

A statement issued by the White House after the meeting said that Obama and Rivlin discussed the ongoing violence in Israel and the West Bank, as well as "the importance of Israeli and Palestinian leaders taking steps to reduce violence and restore calm through both action and rhetoric."

Obama, the statement added, saluted Rivlin for his efforts to promote tolerance and understanding and his commitment to equal and fair treatment for all citizens of Israel. Obama also stressed his commitment to a two-state solution and said that the U.S. "would continue to urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take the significant steps necessary to enable the possibility of peace."

Ahead of the meeting, Israeli and American officials both said that they hope to convey that bilateral relations remain strong and steadfast.

Rivlin landed in New York on Tuesday morning on a commercial El Al flight, then took a train to Washington. He is also expected to hold a series of meetings with the Democratic and Republican leadership in the U.S. House and Senate.