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Rivlin invites ‘longstanding friend of Israel’ Biden to visit Jerusalem

President says election victor will be ‘leader of free world and of Israel’s closest, most important ally’; Netanyahu notes decades of ‘warm personal’ relationship with Biden’

President Reuven Rivlin, left, with then US Vice President Joe Biden at the President's residence in Jerusalem on March 9, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin, left, with then US Vice President Joe Biden at the President's residence in Jerusalem on March 9, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday invited US President-elect Joe Biden to visit Jerusalem and Israel, describing the election victor as a longtime friend of the Jewish state.

In a video posted to social media Rivlin recalled that he had hosted Biden in 2016 when the latter was vice president in the Obama administration.

“Mr. President-elect, I was pleased to welcome you to Jerusalem as vice president and I look forward to welcoming you to Jerusalem as president of the United States,” Rivlin said in the English-language video. “As a longstanding friend of Israel, you are now going to be the leader of the free world and of Israel’s closest and most important ally.”

“Our bond is more than friendship,” Rivlin continued. “It is based on values, on our shared commitment to freedom and democracy.”

“I also want to thank President Trump for four years of partnership, strengthening Israel’s security, and to thank the American people for their support and friendship,” Rivlin said. “I have no doubt that we will continue to grow and flourish in the future. God bless America. God bless all of you.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, and also added praise of outgoing President Donald Trump.

“I would like to start with congratulations for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. “I have a long and warm personal connection with Joe Biden for nearly 40 years, and I know him as a great friend of the State of Israel. I am certain that we will continue to work with both of them in order to further strengthen the special alliance between Israel and the US.

He thanked Trump “for the great friendship he showed the State of Israel and me personally. I congratulate him on recognizing Jerusalem [as the capital] and [Israeli sovereignty over] the Golan Heights, for his stand on Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the alliance between Israel and the US to unprecedented heights. Thank you, President Trump.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with then US Vice President Joe Biden at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also congratulated Biden and Harris on being voted into office.

“I am certain that the long-standing special relations between our countries will continue forward and expand further under their leadership,” Gantz said, according to the PMO statement. “The ties between Israel and the US run deep, and are grounded in values and interests that we have shared for decades.”

Gantz also thanked Trump for “the positive strides he has led in the Middle East, both with regard to Iran and in advancing the Abraham Accords, which have left their mark and will continue to positively impact our region well into the future.”

Netanyahu and Gantz were referring to Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and the recent normalization agreements signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz seen during a visit in northern Israel, on October 27, 2020. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

Rivlin, Netanyahu, and Gantz, as well as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenzai, had all issued earlier statements congratulating Biden on winning the election.

On Saturday evening, congratulations to Biden and Harris poured in from all over the world, including from major European states and countries in the Arab world.

Netanyahu had built a close relationship with Trump and his administration, which reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and removing opposition to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank. Netanyahu’s close ties with Trump and Republicans in his corner had led to concerns of a loss of bipartisan support for Israel in Washington.

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