President Reuven Rivlin this afternoon (Friday), held a working meeting at his residence in Jerusalem with United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis who was visiting the region. The Secretary was accompanied at the meeting by Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman.

President Rivlin welcomed Secretary Mattis and spoke of the high regard with which the former general was held by his counterparts in the IDF. He added, “It is a really great honor, a pleasure, to welcome you Secretary of Defense, not only as the Secretary [of Defense] of our greatest ally, but as a former general, and not only as a general, but as a real soldier, and a leader.” The President went on to thank the US Administration, both past and present, for their firm support for Israel, and for the recent signing of the security MOU.

President Rivlin stressed the need for confidence building between Israelis and Palestinians and said, “We are very committed to the need to build trust with the Palestinians, and I know you are devoted to this mission. The mistrust between the two peoples make it almost impossible to find a way to bring to an end not only a conflict but a real tragedy. We are living together, we are sharing the same land, we have responsibilities that we have to trust one another in order to understand that we can live together. Sadly, we have wasted 120 years. The rejection by many of our neighbors, the Palestinians, of the very idea of the existence of the State of Israel does not help.”

Secretary Mattis spoke of his appreciation for the warm welcome he had received in Israel and noted his pride at being the first member of the new US Administration to visit Israel since taking office. He said, “We are committed to Israel’s defense, we support Israel’s internal security and external security. Obviously the week before the Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is important we remind ourselves that if good people don’t band together and work together across all religious and all ethnic lines then bad people will dominate, and we are not going to allow it, we are going to work very very closely.”

He went to on to speak of the excellent security relationship between the two countries, and noted that the US saw in the threat of terrorism, and the threat posed by Iran, two significant threats that must not be allowed to overcome those who sought peace and prosperity for the region.

The two went on to hold an in-depth discussion on the current challenges facing the Middle East, and of Israel’s security needs given the significant changes which had taken place in recent years.