President Reuven Rivlin..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
President Reuven Rivlin met on Sunday with a delegation of Israel Bond leaders from North and South America, as well as a group of 30 young leaders, at his residence in Jerusalem.
“You are now leading the Jewish people, not just the Jewish people of Israel – but all of us,” Susan Balaban, a veteran Jewish community leader, told the president at the meeting.
Although this was Rivlin’s first meeting with Israel Bonds in his capacity as president, Balabas said that he is no stranger to the organization, noting his long relationship with it.
Rivlin, for his part, said that Israel would not have been able to do what it has done without the assistance of Israel Bonds and all of the others that have supported Israel throughout the years.
Since its launch in 1951, he said, the organization has played a unique role in helping to cultivate the desert, build transportation networks, build roads and absorb new immigrants, adding that Israel is delighted to see that Jews outside of the country feel a responsibility to contribute to its development.
When asked by a member of the audience about settlements, Rivlin responded that they have been a strategic defense policy of all Israeli governments since 1967.
“We have a conflict because we have returned to our homeland,” he said, “but we have to respect that this is also the homeland of people who were born here.”
The president remarked that both parties in the Israeli-Arab conflict are right, but emphasized the right of the Jewish people to return to its promised homeland.
Settlements, he stressed, are a strategic means of protecting Israel, and have to be expanded because of natural growth, but said that no new settlements would be built until the problems between Israel and “our neighbors and cousins” will be settled.
Peace will come only when there is understanding that the Jews have returned to their homeland, which is a Jewish and a democratic state, the president said.
“We don’t have to excuse ourselves for returning to the homeland of the Jewish people,” he said, “and only when the Palestinians understand this will they understand that it is our destiny to live together.”
Rivlin, who has previously spoken of the need to demilitarize the Palestinians, said “we cannot live with open borders if the other side is not demilitarized.”
He also referred to the pressures being exerted on Israel to redivide Jerusalem, but was confident that this will never happen.
In response to a question about anti-Semitism, Rivlin characterized it as a disease, and said that the countries in which anti-Semitism exits are responsible to fight it.
He admitted the difficulties involved, saying that in some countries, the negativism is against Israel and not the Jews.
In others it is against the Jews and not Israel, he said, and in others still it is against the Jews, against Israel and against the United States, or primarily against the United States and therefore Israel and the Jews.