Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 9, 2015
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRESIDENT RIVLIN OF ISRAEL
BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING
2:27 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is a wonderful pleasure to greet and welcome President Rivlin on his first trip to the Oval Office as the President of Israel. This gives us an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our two countries and our two peoples. And we are especially pleased that President Rivlin and Ms. Rivlin are going to be able to join us a little bit later this afternoon at the first of our two Hanukkah parties here at the White House. So we feel very blessed by that.
As I’ve reiterated many times before and as I indicated when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here, we consider our commitment to Israel’s security to be one of the most important principles of American foreign policy. It’s one that is shared by Democrats and Republicans alike. Under my administration, I’m very proud of the unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation that we have, and the consistent support that we’ve provided to Israel’s defenses. And this will give us a chance to discuss the future of that relationship, and I’ll discuss with President Rivlin the work that we’re doing to develop another memorandum of understanding that can lay the foundation for additional long-term assistance for Israel’s defenses.
We’ll also have a chance to talk about what is a very volatile neighborhood, and the challenges that we all face from terrorism; the challenges that we all face from instability in the Middle East. And I’ll be very interested in hearing President Rivlin’s views on those issues.
And we’ll have an opportunity to discuss the challenges that Israel faces internally and the ways in which we can be helpful in tamping down tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. I’ve been clear in condemning the violence that is recurring inside of Israel; the need for leaders like President Abbas to unequivocally condemn the violence that’s been taking place, the need to end incitement, but also the need for Israelis and Palestinians to find mechanisms in which to dialogue and arrive at peace. And although, obviously, this is a time at which the prospects of serious peace may seem distant, it’s important that we continue to try. And I know that President Rivlin has made it one of his hallmarks to improve dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and Arab Israeli citizens and the larger majority. And so we very much appreciate the work that he has done there.
So, Mr. President, I look forward to our conversation. I want to welcome you here today. And you are, as I said before the press came in, among friends. We’re glad that you’re able to celebrate Hanukkah with us here today.
PRESIDENT RIVLIN: Thank you so very much. Thank you. Well, the obvious should be said from time to time, and even be written: Israel has no greater friend than the United States of America. That has been very clear, and I say that loud and clear.
Well, Mr. President, we are facing the future. And we would like, at the same time, to really thank you from the bottom of our heart, the people of Israel, about what you have done in the last six years for the finance, for the diplomatic and for the military help that you are giving us. You are making us able to stand against threats of today and of tomorrow.
I would like also to say that we are very grateful to you about your declaration about the need to fight extremism, whatever and wherever it is. And we are really going hand-in-hand with those ideas and these ideas. We have no war -- we have no war with Islam. We have war against those who are using ideas in order to create extremism and threats to the whole innocent people in the world.
Well, later on, we are going to light the Hanukkah candles and you know the menorah, the Israeli menorah, the Jewish menorah has eight candles -- four on each side. And in the middle, you have what we call the Shamash. The Shamash is not a civil servant -- it is the leader. The leader who, with him, we are lighting all the candles. And we know, Mr. President, that you have lit the candles for the last seven years to show the way and the right way to your people and to the entire world. And we are very sure that the eighth candle that you will light in the next year will be the same -- to show the whole world how to go in the light and to be able to fight everything that we should not accept and we should not get along with.
God bless you, Mr. President. God bless the state of America.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT RIVLIN: It’s a pleasure.
Pool was ushered at 2:27 pm to a smiling President Rivlin. This is the first meeting for the Israeli President with president Obama after assuming the Presidency. The Israeli President who spoke in English stating what he described as “the obvious” which is “ no greater friend to Israel than the United States” he thanks POTUS for the US military assistance and diplomatic support “ from the bottom of my heart” . He added that this enables Israel to face threats today the in the future.
President Rivlin said that “ we are not at war with Islam but with extremists”. He talked about the Jewish Menorah which he said it has 4 candles on each side and another in the middle called ‘Shamash” in Hebrew . The middle represents the leader , he added that next year the 8 candles will be lit. I have asked the traveling Israeli press on the significance of the story but it seems unfamiliar to almost all. My guess is that he meant that the leadership of the US represents lights , and perhaps POTUS would end his two terms ( 8 candles) . He said he and his wife were looking forward to the Hanukah reception later on at the white house .
POTUS welcomed the Israeli President and reaffirmed the US military commitment to Israel security. He admitted that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is distance but he said he was looking forward to discuss the process , reiterating again his condemnation of violence , adding that he asked President Abbas to end the incitement.
A couple of reporters shouted questions about Trump but POTUS smiled, didn’t answer and instead he wished a happy Hanukah to an Israeli journalist he recognized.
Spotted in the room were the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Mr. Ron Dermer, US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro and National security advisor Susan Rice.
President Rivlin arrived yesterday in NY. He also met with members of congress from both parties. His wife Nechama Rivlin is accompanying him.
The President and his wife are expected to attend a Hanukkah reception hosted by POTUS and FLOTUS , and members of the Jewish community.
President Obama and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sat next to each other in chairs, behind them were Christmas decorations on a mantle. Obama said the meeting gives an opportunity to "reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our two countries and our two people."
After the meeting President Rivlin planned to attend a White House Hannukah ceremony.
"We consider our commitment to Israeli's security to be one of the most important principles of American foreign policy. It is one that is shared by Democrats and Republicans alike," Obama said.
"I'll discuss with President Rivlin the work that we're doing to develop another memorandum of understanding that can lay the foundation for additional long term assistance for Israeli's defenses," Obama. He said they would also discuss "what is a very volatile neighborhood" in the Middle East" and "the challenges that we all face from terrorism, from instability in the Middle East."
Obama also said they would speak of the ways in which the US can be "helpful in tamping down tensions between Israeli's and Palestinians."
"Although obviously this is a time at which the prospects of a serious peace may seem distant it is important that we continue to try," Obama said.
"The obvious should be said from time to time and even be written, Israel has no greatest friend than the United States," Rivlin said.
He thanked Obama for financial, military and diplomatic help that the US had provided Israel on his watch.
"We have no war with Islam,"Rivlin said. "We have war against those who are using ideas in order to create extremism and threats towards the whole innocent people in the world.".