Despite Palestinian unity deal, Rivlin ‘hopeful’ about peace

Addressing Christian reporters in Jerusalem, president hails Israeli-Jordanian ties, vows to ‘keep the holy sites for all faiths safe and secure’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin addressing the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, October 18, 2017 (Mark Neiman)
President Reuven Rivlin addressing the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, October 18, 2017 (Mark Neiman)

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday said he was “hopeful” about Israeli-Palestinian peace, pointing to Jerusalem’s improving ties with Arab states in the region.

“Israel will never stop trying to find a way to bring an end to the tragedy between us and the Palestinians. We must work to build understanding between the two sides. We must work to build confidence between the two peoples,” he told Christian journalists at his Jerusalem residence.

“And I have to tell you, I am hopeful,” he added. “Israel has built new and better friendships with many in our region — economic and diplomatic cooperation. This is an important step.”

Rivlin’s comments came against the backdrop of a controversial unity deal clinched between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Hamas terror organization. Both Jerusalem and Washington have insisted Hamas must recognize Israel, disavow violence, and disarm, before it can play any role in the Palestinian government.

“I want to say how much we appreciate in particular, King Abdullah of Jordan, and all he is doing, for peace, security, and stability in our region,” the president said. “The State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan face many challenges. But our relationship is built on a shared commitment, to the dream of a better future, for both our peoples.”

“I hope this friendship grows stronger and stronger, and that the bond of peace between us will be an example to the whole region, for many generations,” added Rivlin.

President Reuven Rivlin with participants of the first-ever Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, October 18, 2017 (Mark Neiman)

Addressing the closing session of the Government Press Office’s first-ever Christian Media Summit, which was attended by 130 journalists from 30 countries, the president hailed Jerusalem as a microcosm for peaceful coexistence between Jews, Muslims, Christians, religious and secular.

“If we can do it here in the city of Jerusalem, we can do it all over the Middle East, and all over the world,” he said.

The president stressed Israel’s commitment to defending freedom of religion. “I want to reassure you all, that Israel will continue to stand firm to keep the holy sites for all faiths safe and secure,” he said.

On Sunday, the Christian Media Summit had opened with an address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Israel has no better friends – I mean that – no better friends in the world than the Christian communities around the world,” Netanyahu said. “And Israel is the one country in a vast region where Christians not only survive, they thrive.”

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