Photo Credit: Mark Neyman/GPO
President Rivlin speaks at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Los Angeles, November 14, 2017.

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday addressed the Western Wall controversy at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, in Los Angeles, saying, “The symbol of unity, the Wall of our Tears and Joy, has become a symbol of division and disagreement. I hope that in the future we can return to the table together, and reach an understanding on this important issue. We must all respect Israel’s democratic process, the decision-making process. Whether we like it or not, in the only Jewish democratic state, ‘religion and state’ is a political issue.”

The president noted, however, that “the State of Israel was, and will always be, the home of every Jew: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, secular, traditional, Ashkenazi, Sephardi. Jews. We are all one people, and Israel is dear to all of us.”

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Rivlin then charted the tasks before Jews at home and abroad: “The fight against anti-Semitism; preserving Jewish identity; safeguarding the security of Israel. We must continue to pass these duties to our children and grandchildren, from one generation to the next,” and stressed: “We shall continue to fight together against anti-Semitism in all its forms; from the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, to terror attacks against our brothers and sisters around the world, from BDS on campuses, to attacking Israel’s legitimacy in the United Nations. There is no room for hesitation, we must continue the fight against it as one united front.”

Israel’s security, the president said, “We are one people that has one Jewish State. Keeping Israel strong and secure is also a task we share.” He noted the importance of Israel’s relationship with the United States of America and said, “You are an integral part of the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States. This is the place to thank you for the role you play in developing these relations, in ensuring America’s commitment to the security of the State of Israel. This is also the place to thank the American Administration – President Obama before, and now President Trump – for supporting Israel and keeping its strategic edge.”

The President went on to warn that “Today, Iran is establishing its control through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and up to the Mediterranean. This is not just a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the entire world.” He said, “Iran is the number one exporter of international terrorism. It is a country whose leaders call openly for the destruction of the State of Israel. We cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear capability. That is madness. We must work together to prevent that. The current agreement puts both Israel and the United States in danger, and shakes the stability of the entire region. It is not enough to enforce all parts of this agreement. It has to be improved, so that we will be prepared for the day after it expires.”

The President also spoke of the need to find a solution to the conflict with Israel’s immediate neighbors in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. He noted that “Maintaining the security of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, is also a founding principle in any future agreement with the Palestinians,” and that “The Israel-Palestinian conflict will not be solved by boycotts or by unilateral steps. The political hijacking of international bodies, from the UN to Interpol, only harms the chance of reaching a solution.”

Speaking of his own childhood experiences growing up in Jerusalem, and of the importance of building understanding between the two sides, he said, “The Jewish People, the State of Israel, has never been and will never be at war with Islam. The lives of Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, are bound together. We live side by side, and with each other. We share the same land, the same holy places, the same water and the same sky. There will be no peace, until we all understand that we are not doomed to live together, it is our destiny to live together; Arabs and Jews.” He urged there should be a greater focus on achievements that were possible today, and noted the importance of investment across Jerusalem, which was a “microcosm of our ability, Jews and Arabs, to live together.” He said there was a need to, “Keep Jerusalem one – in words and in action.”

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