Full text of remarks by President Barack Obama and President Reuven Rivlin, at the Oval Office of the White House, December 9, 2015.
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.