Rivlin Says Obama Is Concerned Over Abbas' Future

President says he agrees with American counterpart that more should be done to renew dialogue with Palestinians, even if in stages.

Obama and Rivlin during a bilateral meeting at the white House in Washington D.C., December 9, 2015.
AFP

President Rivlin said on Wednesday that, during a meeting at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern over the future of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in light of the disconnect with Israel.

"The president expressed his concern and his uncompromising commitment to Israel," Rivlin said during a press briefing at the White House after the two leaders participated in a candle-lighting ceremony following their meeting.

Rivlin said Obama "expressed great concern" over the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. "He sees the disconnect as unproductive, but he did not seem optimistic about the possibility of restarting dialogue with the Palestinians.

However, Rivlin noted that he told Obama that he believes there is a need to renew the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. "I told him that maybe it should be done in stages, and maybe we should discuss [the possibility of] an interim period."

The president said that his American counterpart did not appear optimistic about the possibility of bridging the gap between Israel and the Palestinians. "He expressed his concern over the future to come, and the future of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas," Rivlin noted.

"The Americans can help, but they see little chance to renew the talks. The president agreed with me that the building of trust is required. They will check if each side (Israel and the Palestinians) can make gestures that could bring the two nations closer and the result could be the renewal of negotiations.

As for the remarks made by Republican candidate Donald Trump to bar Muslims from entering the U.S., Rivlin said that although he did not hear them, he supports Obama's call for the need to combat extremism. "We have no war against Islam, only with the extremists and this is how we must address the Republican Candidate Trump's comments."

A statement issued by the White House after the meeting said that the two leaders 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 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," the statement said.

Rivlin said the two also discussed the Islamic State group and his concern that its influence could reach Libya and Egypt. "We have the appropriate determination to fight them," he said.

Rivlin was also asked about the fact that his meeting with Obama seemed better than any of those he held with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past seven years.

"The president was very open, very sincere and very clear in his statements to me," he answered. "Was this meeting better or worse than other meetings? You are bigger experts [than me]. You were here for all the meetings, and was only in this one, so I can't tell."