President Reuven Rivlin (L) and US President Barack Obama.
(photo credit: GPO,REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin is convinced that out-of-the-box thinking is required to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post several hours before he boarded a plane to the United States for a meeting with US President Barack Obama, Rivlin said everything that has been tried so far has failed and that new ideas are needed.
“If we build walls between us, we will not find any possibility of bringing an end to the tragedy we have lived in for the last 100-150 years, and I have a lot of suggestions on those matters,” he said.
Rivlin has recently spoken of the possibility of a confederation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, but when asked to clarify whether this means that he has changed his stance on Palestinian statehood, he evaded a direct answer and said a federation is just one of several ideas he will discuss with Obama when the two meet at the White House on Wednesday.
First and foremost, Rivlin will tell Obama that Israel has no greater friend than the United States.
If Obama asks for Rivlin’s assessment of Islamic State, Rivlin will give him the same reply he gave to Secretary of State John Kerry during the latter’s recent visit to Israel; he is ready to answer any question Obama will put to him.
He will also suggest discussing security issues in general, such as the US foreign policy commitment to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and the US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on strategic cooperation.
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Israel is the key recipient of US foreign military financing (FMF), and has received more than $20.5 billion since 2009. In fiscal 2016, which will be the eighth year of a 10-year, $30b.
memorandum of understanding between the US and Israel, Congress has been asked to approve $3.1b. in FMF funds for Israel.
Obama has provided an additional $2.9b. in funding for missile defense programs and systems. Since 2011, the United States has provided Israel with more than $1.3b. for the Iron Dome system alone, but Israel’s security burden is growing and this is something else that is likely to come up in discussion between Rivlin and Obama.
“While facing the future, we cannot neglect the needs of the present,” said Rivlin. The security situation in the Middle East has broadened due to Islamic State and Israel is left with the main burden, he added.
In relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rivlin said: “We have lost 150 years thinking that we can make shortcuts in the Middle East conflict, which I call a tragedy.”
He stressed, as he has done many times before, that mutual lack of confidence prevents the conflict from being brought to an end. He is very particular about the semantics and refuses to say the conflict will be resolved. It is important to him to say that it will end.
From Rivlin’s perspective: “Only the United States can help us build confidence measures. We have tried several ways to solve the problem in the past, and we will discuss new, alternative ways in which Israel and the Palestinians can live together,” he said.
Rivlin placed special emphasis on the fact that there are options other than those already employed in bringing the conflict to an end.
Quoting his mentor Menachem Begin, Rivlin said that sometimes the obvious must be stated. And the obvious, according to Rivlin, is that Israel has no greater friend than America, especially when it comes to efforts to put an end to the conflict.
Rivlin met on Tuesday with Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
He is due to meet with Obama at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Washington time, and at 3:30 p.m., together with his wife, Nechama, will be the guest of honor at the traditional White House Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony.
On Thursday, prior to departing for New York, Rivlin will deliver an address at the Brookings Institute, after which he will meet with US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.
Steve Linde contributed to this report.
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