President Reuven and First Lady Nechama Rivlin, visited the White House , and were greeted by US President Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama.
At the beginning of their meeting, the two Presidents gave statements to the media in the Oval Office, and then continued on to hold a working meeting.
President Obama welcomed President Rivlin on his arrival to the White House and noted that he was pleased to host him and his wife at the traditional White House Chanukah party. President Obama emphasized the importance of the friendship between the two countries and the US’s commitment to Israel's security and said, "It is a wonderful pleasure to greet and welcome President Rivlin on his first trip to the Oval Office as President of Israel, this gives us an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our two countries and our two peoples." President Obama added, "We consider our commitment to Israel's security to be one of the most important principles of American foreign policy, it is one of the shared by Democrats and Republicans alike."
President Obama stressed that he was especially proud of the security and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel, and stated that during his meeting with President Rivlin he would discuss the efforts to help build a foundation for maintaining the long term security of Israel. President Obama emphasized his strong condemnation of the recent violence that the citizens of Israel had faced, and said, "We will have the 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. Although obviously this is a time in which the prospects of serious peace may seem distant, it is 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. We very much appreciate the work he has done there."
At the end of his remarks, President Obama welcomed President Rivlin once again and said, "You are among friends, and we are glad you could come and celebrate Hanukkah with us, welcome."
President Rivlin thanked President Obama for his invitation to the White House and the warm reception he received, and said that the United States was Israel's greatest friend, "We are facing the future and we would like at the same time to thank you from the bottom of our hearts, the people of Israel, for what you have done over the last years, and for the financial, diplomatic, and military help you have given us. You have given us the ability to stand against the threats of today, and of tomorrow."
President Rivlin stressed the common position of the United States and Israel against fundamentalism and said, "I would like also to say that we are very grateful to you for your declaration about the need to fight extremism wherever it is, and we are going hand-in-hand with you in those ideas. We have no war with Islam, we have a war against those who are using ideas to create extremism and threats to the all innocent people of the world."
At the end of his speech, President Rivlin told President Obama, "Later on we will light the Chanukah candles, and you know the Jewish Menorah has eight candles, four on each side, and in the middle we have what we call the Shamash, the leader, with which we light all the other candles. We know Mr President, that you have lit the candle for the last seven years to show the right way for your people, and for the entire world, and we are very sure that the eighth candle that you will light in the next year will be same, and show the whole world how to fight what we should not accept."
During the meeting that took place after the official statements, the Presidents spoke about the mutual commitment to the relationship between the two countries and President Obama reiterated the United States' commitment to Israel's security. The two also discussed the ongoing talks between the two countries regarding the renewed understandings about ten more years of military aid to Israel, which were renewed last week. President Rivlin and President Obama went on to discuss the regional challenges facing Israel and the world, including the civil war in Syria and the Islamic State. The two Presidents expressed their common concern in light of the wave of ongoing terror in Israel and the importance of taking significant steps in order to alleviate the tensions and restore order, both in words and actions, by both sides. President Obama expressed his appreciation for President Rivlin’s stance on equal rights for all citizens of the State of Israel and stressed that the United States would continue to urge and encourage Israel and the Palestinians to take significant measures necessary to enable peace.
The Presidents and First-Ladies then went on to light the fourth candle of Chanukah, at the traditional White House Chanukah party. President Obama noted at the event that he was proud and happy to host President Rivlin and his wife, adding that Chanukah was a symbol of the struggle for freedom and for freedom of religion.
President Rivlin said, "Standing here, next to the Menorah, we remember the brave Maccabees. We remember they did not fight 'against', they fought 'for’ - for liberty, for freedom of religion, for their traditions, for our traditions, for their ability to celebrate their own identity. Chanukah is the holiday of spiritual activism. It is a holiday which represents the spirit of the human being, created equally in the Image of God."
The President concluded by saying that he would light the candles in prayer and hope that someday freedom of religion, culture and moral freedom would be the right of all citizens of the world without exception, and wished the guests a Happy Chanukah.
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