Israeli President: Biden Should Help «Build Confidence» Between Israelis, Palestinians

In Video Message, Jordanian King Urges “Just and Lasting Peace”

WASHINGTON, DC -During his first interview since the U.S. presidential election, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called on the Biden administration to help Israel “build confidence” with the Palestinians to achieve “real peace.”

The president spoke with Washington Institute for Near East Policy Executive Director Robert Satloff during the virtual event in which the research organization presented Rivlin with its highest honor, The Scholar-Statesman Award. Previous honorees include King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and U.S. secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, George P. Shultz, and Henry Kissinger.

The Scholar-Statesman Award celebrates outstanding leaders whose public service and achievements exemplify the idea that sound leadership and knowledge of history are essential to wise, effective policy and advancement of peace and security in the Mideast.

In presenting the award, Satloff lauded the president for his “commitment to integrity, commitment to tolerance, to unity, and to hope.”

In a wide-ranging conversation that addressed Israel’s domestic and foreign affairs, Rivlin praised the work of President Trump, citing the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, among other achievements. However, he emphasized that the U.S.-Israel relationship is based on shared values and strategic interests. “We know that the friendship between the Americans and the Israelis goes beyond politics,” he said.

He called Biden “a very good friend” and noted their longstanding personal relationship as Rivlin has served as speaker of the Knesset and president. The Israeli president did note “differences of opinion” with Washington in the past, including in their approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We can say two states for two people, one state for all the people, federation, confederation, we can do a lot – but, first of all, we have to build confidence [with the Palestinians],” he said, adding, “I tried even to really, to convince President Trump that confidence, building confidence, you cannot get it by making a deal.”

Rivlin called on the Palestinian Authority to cooperate in combatting common threats: “I spoke to the president of the Palestinian people, President Abbas, and told him you see when the corona or when somebody out there decides that he can endanger all of us, there are no borders. We have to take it into consideration we have to fight it together.”

Rivlin praised the Abraham Accords that cemented the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain saying, “I really believe that it really could be a real first step of finding the way of cooperation between Jews and Arabs in the region.”

On internal matters, Rivlin explained that after three elections in Israel, “I did everything in order to bring to a coalition”. He remarked that, “They managed to create a government, but they have to understand that when you are making a government you have to cooperate. A coalition means to cooperate, and unfortunately, everyone is accusing the other side that he is not cooperating. Of course as the president of Israel, I am not going to interfere.”

King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the 2019 recipient of the Scholar-Statesman Award, sent video congratulations to President Rivlin. “At a time when not only our region but our world is plagued by illness and strife, it is courage, leadership, and partnerships that are needed now more than ever to overcome differences and to bring us all closer to healthier, safer, and more peaceful shores,” he said.

The king called on Israelis and Palestinians to pursue the peace process, saying, “I pledge once again to continue to do everything possible to achieve the just and lasting peace that fulfills the aspirations of all sides on the basis of a two-state solution.

Rivlin thanked the king for his wishes, adding, “[King Abdullah II] is very important to us. He is very important as a neighbor. And he is very important as a real figure that could bring understanding and could create along with all the people in our region the understanding that we have to build trust.»

A complete transcript of President Rivlin’s conversation is available here.

King Abdullah II’s remarks may be found here.

This year’s Scholar-Statesman Award Gala also paid tribute to Walter P. «Wally» Stern, a senior vice president of The Washington Institute and a long-time leader of the organization. It was chaired by philanthropists Rita and Charles Bronfman; The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation (CLSFF); and Merryl and James Tisch.

About The Washington Institute:  The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution funded exclusively by U.S. citizens that seeks to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.

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