President Reuven Rivlin hosted US Vice President Joe Biden at his residence today (Wednesday). The two diplomats took the opportunity to address reporters.
President Rivlin began his remarks by speaking of Israel's resolve in the face of the wave of terror that had struck Israel in the last hours. "Once again we woke up to terror on the streets of Jerusalem. You arrived yesterday and were in Jaffa, just a short distance from the brutal terror attack in which a US citizen was murdered. I stand here with you in grief and in solidarity. Our prayers go to the victim’s family, and to all the injured in the wave of terror which struck last night and this morning. To my sorrow, Israel has faced this kind of terror nearly every day over the past year. Israel will continue to stand firm in the face of this violence and hatred. Terror will not break us, and it will not shape our future."
He went on to note the close friendship between the Israeli and American people, and expressed his appreciation for America's support for Israel. He said, "Vice President, I know that Israel is close to your heart, and we welcome you; as a dear friend of Israel and the Jewish people. On Chanukah, in the White House, I thanked President Obama, and today I thank you again for the continued US support for Israel's security. The friendship between the Israeli people, and the American people, is strong and sincere. It is this friendship which leads us to face the challenges of today and look to the future, in cooperation and partnership."
President Rivlin stressed that "Israel is a strong democracy; stronger than ever. However when the region suffers from uncertainty and instability, Israel's burden of security is heavy; perhaps heavier than ever. Vice President Biden, your visit is very important. The whole region needs a clear message from the United States of America. Terror and hatred drive people apart. The only way forward, is to build trust. Peace cannot be imposed, it must be reached."
Vice President Biden thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, "It was a delight to have you in Washington and I am simply delighted to be back. The United States of America resoundingly condemns the terrorist violence we have seen lately including yesterday. To use your expression, our hearts go out to those who have suffered and their families."
He stressed, "We take very seriously, as you do here, the death of every innocent civilian, every warrior, that comes as a consequence of the evil acts of terror. I carry in my pocket every day, my schedule. On the back of my schedule there is a black box. I have my staff every morning, at around 5.30 in the morning, contact the Defense Department, and on that box is the list of the number of troops who have died to date from the beginning in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting terrorism – 6,740, not 6,700 and some. 6,740. The number of wounded – 52,365 not 52,000 plus. The reason I say this is because every single victim, every fallen angel, everyone who falls at the hands of brutality leaves behind an entire community. It is not just that child, that husband, that wife, that son, that daughter that is lost – it is an entire community. Extended families, friends."
Vice President Biden continued, "There is an old Irish expression, ‘too long a suffering makes a stone of the heart.’ The reason why we have to deal with this plague of terrorism is it will have the tendency to harden hearts – not be willing to reach out, not be willing to reach compromise. Israelis and visitors to Israel cannot go on being afraid to go about their lives for fear of being attacked. The violence has to stop, period. As you indicated, Mr President, one of the reasons I think you are such a wise man, it [the violence] cannot and will not be stopped just be physical force.
"As I said I just finished a meeting with the Prime Minister – a long meeting which started at 10 o’clock, a fruitful meeting – and I touched on a broad range of issues where Israel and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder. America’s commitment to Israel is absolutely unshakable, it is unquestionable. Like brothers we will disagree, sometimes disagree really strongly about what path should be taken. But never, never, never, over the 40 years I have been doing this, or since the State of Israel was established, have we disagreed on the principle that there is an absolute, unyielding necessity for all world Jewry for there to be an independent Jewish state called Israel. That is our commitment and that rests on this grand state being able to be secure. Partnerships with Israel are on many fronts but central to that is the security partnership that we have. I hope to discuss with you, Mr. President, ideas that will help reduce extremism and achieve greater economic opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians alike, issues about which I know you are passionate. Because ultimately, a peace that leads to a state where there are two peoples is still the surest path to a prosperous future for all the people here – a two-state solution. A strong and secure Israel is very much in the interests of the United States."
He concluded, "So Mr. President, I am anxious to get to our discussion because when I sit with you I always learn something – I mean that sincerely, you have wisdom. President Obama and I were very honored to welcome you and your wife to the White House in your first visit in December. You said at that time Israel has no greater friend than the United States. I am here to reaffirm that that assertion is absolutely right and we have no greater friend."