Remarks With Israeli President Reuven Rivlin Before Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
President's Residence
November 24, 2015

PRESIDENT RIVLIN: Secretary Kerry, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to Jerusalem. You are here as a friend of Israel and as a leader of Israel’s greatest friend and the most important ally, the United States of America. We always say our friendship is one of shared values and shared (inaudible).

But it is important to emphasize what this means. It means our countries (inaudible) in a mirror and see the other – we see the similarity in our supreme courts and in our protection of the freedom of speech and religion. We see it in the way different communities live together and build a strong and healthy democracy. (Inaudible) Secretary Kerry, the terrible scenes we have seen around the world have shaken us all and we continue to send our prayers, and to the injured and those who lost loved ones.

Sadly, of course, in Israel, we are not strangers to the horrors of terrorism. The pain is the same in Tel Aviv as it is in Paris, in Gaza, in (inaudible) in the Gush Katif, as it is in Mali and as it is in Sharon, Massachusetts. And I extend again my deepest condolences to the family of Ezra Schwartz, as a U.S. citizen murdered while here in Israel to study – while being here in Israel, to study as – and to be a volunteer.

All free nations are facing the threat of radical Islam, which is the product of hate, not of faith. And all of us must work together against the great evil. We do not need to apologize for our belief in freedom. Yet while the world continues to face these threats, it does not make a way – it does not take away from our ability here to find the way to build trust between us and the Palestinians, between us and our neighbors.

We can and must show the world we can – we can live together in peace; we can build confidence measures, all of us. And I want to thank you, Secretary Kerry, on behalf of the people of Israel for your dedication to helping us bring an end to the conflict, to the tragedy that we are living along for the last 150 years.

Once again, welcome to Israel. Welcome to Jerusalem.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir. Well, Mr. President – is this working? Yes.

Mr. President, thank you very, very much for an extraordinarily generous welcome, and thank you for your eloquent words, which are much appreciated and have great meaning. I’ve had the privilege of coming to Israel for many, many years now, beginning in the 1980s when I first visited here and I spent an entire week and I traveled from the north, Kiryat Shmona, and saw what it was like in a shelter for young children who had to hide from the Katyusha rockets. And I have climbed Masada, I floated upside down and backwards in the Dead Sea, covered myself in black mud. I’ve traveled to Sderot and seen the carcasses of shells of rockets that have come out of Gaza. I have actually had the privilege of flying an Israeli jet once with a colonel who was a great ace of the 1967 war. And I have many, many times visited this house with President Peres and visited a number of prime ministers over the course of time.

So I feel very much a part of Israel and very connected to this journey that we are all sharing together. The United States is very proud to be the friend and ally of our – of a democracy here in the Middle East, a strong country – though small – which shares our values about freedom and about dignity and respect for individuals. And we honor this remarkable journey that Israel is on as it sets an example to people for making a nation out of desert and breaking new frontiers of technology today and of medicine and of so many other things.

This is a difficult time. We all know that. When citizens can be murdered like Ezra Schwartz, my citizen of Massachusetts, driving in a car on a mission to learn and to share, and when other citizens can be gunned down, and a soldier yesterday, in a marketplace in Jerusalem, this is a challenge to all civilized people. And we all have a responsibility to condemn that violence, to make it clear that no frustration, no politics, no ideology, no emotion justifies taking innocent lives.

So I am pleased to stand here with you, as I stood earlier with the prime minister, to express our outrage at this kind of violence, to condemn this violence, and to make it clear that Israel not only has a right to defend itself; it has an obligation to do so. And the United States will continue to stand with Israel in support of your desire to live in peace and stability without that violence.

So Mr. President, thank you for welcoming me here today. I look forward to talking with you about your views not only on the immediate challenge in the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, but also on the challenge of the region and on the ways that all of us can join together to defeat Daesh and to bring peace to the Middle East. And again, I thank you for the welcome, and I can guarantee you that the United States and Israel will continue to share the bonds that have defined our relationship for so many years. Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENT RIVLIN: Thank you, God bless. God bless. Thank you so very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you.