There is growing cooperation between Israel and many of our neighbors, which shows, I believe, a regional desire to bring an end to the conflict with the Palestinians.
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
During United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s last scheduled visit to Israel while in office, President Reuven welcomed him for a working meeting at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. President Rivlin greeted the Secretary General in the garden of the residence where they both gave brief media statements before their meeting.
President Rivlin welcomed his guest and spoke of his pride at Israel’s contribution to the international community, and recent succession to hold the chair of the UNGA Legal Affairs Panel. He said, "Secretary General, it is a pleasure and an honor to welcome you back to Israel, and to Jerusalem. Israel is proud of the role it plays in the international community; from technology and medicine, to academia and culture. Israel is proud of the help it offers through MASHAV, and other humanitarian programs that help build a better world. Israel is proud of the role it is playing at the United Nations; the most important international forum. We are proud to hold the chair for the General Assembly Legal Affairs Panel, and I congratulate Ambassador Danny Danon for this historic achievement."
President Rivlin spoke of Israel’s concern regarding the fate of two Israeli servicemen and a two Israeli citizens whose fate and whereabouts where being withheld by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and asked the Secretary General to assist in the matter. He said, "On the humanitarian side, Hamas still refuse to give – even to the Red Cross – information on the fate of two of our soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. At the same time we are very worried about two Israeli citizens both suffering poor mental health, one Muslim and one Jewish. They are being held by Hamas after crossing into Gaza two years ago. Again Hamas has refused to give details about their well-being or where they are held. I ask you to do all you can to bring an end to this pain."
Turning to the situation in the region, and the improvement of the relations with Turkey, President Rivlin said, "Secretary General, as you know there is growing cooperation between Israel and many of our neighbors. There is, I believe, a regional desire to bring an end to the conflict with the Palestinians. At this opportunity I want to welcome the chance to renew our relations with Turkey. We have a long history of cooperation, and I believe we have a promising future of cooperation. I understand the many Israelis that disagree or feel hurt by the agreement, but our elected leaders have the responsibility to act in the country’s best interest. There are no shortcuts in the Middle East. Hatred spreads much faster than hope, and the only way to move forward is direct negotiations."
President Rivlin concluded, "Secretary General, this may be your last visit to Israel in your current position. So I take this opportunity to thank you; thank you for your dedication to our region and for peoples around the world. You will always be welcome here, as a true friend of Israel – even if we may not always agree – a friend who knows the importance of a strong Israel. Thank you and welcome."
UN Sec. Gen. Ban thanked the President for his warm hospitality and spoke of his hope for an end to terrorism, he said, "A better tomorrow also means a future free from violence. The latest appalling terror attack in Tel Aviv is a vivid example. I offer my deepest condolences to the victims and their families. Stabbings, shootings, and bombings will not achieve anything because violence is never a solution. Such acts are precisely designed to breed fear as uncertainty. They eat away at trust and hope, and drive Palestinians and Israelis further apart and strip away any sense of empathy for one another."
He added, "Leaders on both sides need to urgently take concrete steps to restore hope and a political horizon so that the Israeli and Palestinian people see a pathway to peace, not a quagmire of recurring violence." He added, "I am encouraged by the recent international and regional engagement."
He spoke in relation to the upcoming publication of the Quartet report and said, "I encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to engage with the Quartet on its recommendations and on creating the conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations. Let me assure you Mr. President, that the United Nations stands ready to support all efforts in achieving this goal."
The Secretary General turned to the President and thanked him for his stand against discrimination and racism. He said, "Mr. President, I also want to take this opportunity to recognize your leadership in the fight against intolerance and for inclusion. Your words and actions reflect your deep commitment to ensuring that all Israelis, of all backgrounds, are treated with dignity and respect."
He concluded in relation to the announcement between Israel and Turkey, "Let me add, that I welcome today’s announcement of the normalization of relations between Israel and Turkey. This is an important signal for the stability of the region."
During their meeting, the President spoke with the Secretary General about his meetings at the European Union last week, and his disappointment at the words by President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas in his address at the European Parliament. President Rivlin stressed that the refusal by Mahmoud Abbas of the European led initiative to set a meeting between the two when they were in Brussels represented a continuation of the on-going crisis of trust between Israelis and Palestinians. In addition the President and Secretary General spoke about the regional situation, in particular on Israel’s northern border with Syria, and on the border with the Gaza Strip.