(photo credit: REUTERS)
Leading a bipartisan delegation of US senators who are touring the Middle East, Sen.
John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, met on Sunday evening with President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence in Jerusalem.
“We come as friends and supporters of Israel – Republicans and Democrats – in a common bond of support for Israel and the whole region,” McCain said.
The president stressed the importance of Israel’s relations with the United States.
“Your support is not just words. You have supported an upgrade in the cooperation between our countries...
including with Iron Dome – which has saved so many lives.”
On the decision by the International Criminal Court prosecutor to investigate Israel, the president said, “Making legal accusations against Israel, while there is no demand for accountability from the Palestinians is another victory for terror.
International law must be clear not only about what a state cannot do, but also about what a state should do, in order to protect its citizens from terror.”
Rivlin called on the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table and said, “I call upon President Abbas, instead of going to The Hague or the UN, come to Jerusalem. Come and talk directly to the Israeli government and people.”
McCain was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. In March last year he called on the US Senate to pass bipartisan sanctions against Iran, saying that America must keep the pressure on so that Iran realizes that unless it compromises, even more crippling sanctions will be in store.
McCain, who is known to be a great friend of Israel and one who will do everything in his power to prevent another Holocaust, has visited Israel on numerous occasions, the first time close to 35 years ago, when he was still a captain in the US Navy.
Some of the senators with him have been to Israel before, and Sen. Angus King from Maine even spoke of his son who came last summer with a Birthright group to coach lacrosse enthusiasts in Ashkelon.
King told Rivlin that he and the boy’s mother are most appreciative of the Iron Dome, and when they suggested to their son that he come home, he said he couldn’t because it would mean letting down the kids in Ashkelon. When he eventually did return home, he spoke of how impressed he’d been by the resilience of the Israelis.
In view of the calamity that befell French Jewry a little over a week ago, coupled with their knowledge of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, members of the delegation made Yad Vashem their first stop in order to be reminded of what must be prevented from happening again.
Noting that in Israel politicians are generally on the Right or the Left, Rivlin quipped that they are either right or wrong, to which one of the senators responded: “We’re all on the same side when it comes to Israel. The people who want to destroy you want to destroy us, so we’re all in it together.”
Advocating direct negotiations instead of the measures taken by the Palestinians, Rivlin said: “Unilateral steps will not solve the conflict.
They will only give more power to extremists.”