President Reuven Rivlin speaks with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. .
(photo credit: PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCE)
Support for Israel has never been and must not become a political party issue. It is bipartisan, President Reuven Rivlin told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Thursday. The bonds between the two countries are based on values of democracy, freedom, liberty and equality, he said, and emphasized that during the current US presidential election season, when candidates and campaigns try to win points and votes, it was his deep hope that the close relationship between Israel and the US will remain beyond debate.
Rivlin was introduced by Conference of Presidents chairman Stephen Greenberg, who described him as “a clear voice for unity among the entire population.”
Greenberg said it was fitting as they complete their trip, which has also taken them to Egypt and Turkey, that the last official from whom they would hear would be Rivlin.
Issues touched on by Rivlin in his address and the subsequent question-and-answer session included Iran, the role that the US should play in the Middle East, the fight against anti-Semitism, the need to build bridges of understanding between Jews and Arabs, Jewish unity, the changes in the Middle East which are turning enemies into allies and friends into enemies, Russian involvement in Syria, developments among the Kurds, and the conflict with the Palestinians.
Rivlin said: “We must all stand united in the fight against anti-Semitism. Across the world we are seeing a rise in this old and new disease. Jewish students are threatened on campuses around the world. In Europe, 70 years after the Holocaust, Jews are afraid to wear a kippa in the street; and there is more and more pressure to boycott the world’s only Jewish state. We must stand firm against those threats. Israel is your partner in this fight and you are our partner.”
With regard to Egypt, Rivlin told his guests that “democracy is not always according to Jefferson,” and that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is trying to defend Egypt from fundamentalism. Israel understands that and there is strong cooperation between the two countries as they try to keep ISIS out of Sinai, because if ISIS takes over Sinai, this poses an acute danger for both Egypt and Israel.
Taking what happened in Libya as a guideline, Rivlin doubted that Syria will once again become a united nation.
He lamented the fact that so much time has gone by without an understanding being reached between Israel and the Palestinians, a factor which he believes impedes Israel’s ability to live together with the surrounding nations.
When his family came from Lithuania to Jerusalem in the 1800s, he said, they were welcomed because Jerusalem was not yet seen as a point of conflict.
Rivlin said he doesn’t care with whom he negotiates, but over what the negotiations are about.
Without actually naming the Oslo Accords, he recalled that “we thought that peace was on the threshold, but in a very short time we were awakened from the dream.”
Greenberg and Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, presented Rivlin with a ritual pointer (yad) used when reading from a Torah scroll. The handle is usually circular, but the artist who crafted this one gave it four sides, said Hoenlein, to symbolize that from whatever direction Jews come, what they have in common is the Torah as a sign of unity. “We believe in strength through unity,” he said. “We know that the State of Israel has experienced many miracles, but we have to build unity from within and without.”