Remarks With Israeli President Reuben Rivlin Before Their Meeting

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Israeli President's Residence
March 21, 2019

PRESIDENT RIVLIN: So again, welcome. Welcome to Israel and welcome to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. And as I say to every leader that comes or when I meet leaders from all over the world about our relationship and the foreign affair relationship of the Israeli people and the Israeli state, I always emphasize that we – our relationship – are built on three principles. The first one is the – or are the relationship with the United States. The second one, but not least, our relationship with the United States. And last but not least, our relationship with the United States. (Laughter.)

So saying so and not only to all American president bipartisan and to all the very most important ministers, the home secretary and the Pentagon and everyone that comes to us from the defense ministry, and I say so also to all the leaders from all around the world when I have the opportunity to meet them. So welcome from the bottom of our heart, and I would like you to send my best regards to the President and to thank you once again on the 70th anniversary of our state about what he has done and what he has given us as a president, because I am not only an Israeli, I am a Jerusalemite, son of Jerusalemite, son of the son of Jerusalemites, seventh generation born in Jerusalem. We are here already 220 years, and I am a Jerusalemite. As a Jerusalemite I appreciate very much everything, and I would like to – and I would like to thank you also as a Jerusalemite.

We are very much concerned about what is happening, although, of course, we controlled the every situation. We have problems with the Iranians, and I am sure that you have spoke about that with the prime minister and you have information, daily information. We have, of course, problems with the situation that occurs in Syria. We have now neighbors, new neighbors, the Russian people. I met with Putin twice already, and I wanted to say to him that some of the DNA that we share is with the Russians because of – not only because the people who established the state came from Russia, our pilots know that when they are being fired from the ground they cannot return back home unless they are doing everything in order to quiet the fire that was shot towards them.

We have a lot of problems about what is going in Syria. The last 100 years since the two gentlemens, Mr. Picot and Mr. Sykes, we are in an odd situation. We are sharing relations and sometimes maybe a war situation with people who are not people, that are tribes that became people, and we have to remember that all the time. When we are trying to bring to the very idea and wishes to create secular democratic states all over, it is very, very complicated. What is going on with the Iranians and what they are doing in Syria and what they are doing in Lebanon and what they are doing in Iraq, and all the missiles, the opportunity and the ability to launch us with rockets even from Iraq, it is something that concern us and, of course, will concern you if it would be needed.

So but what is much more important for us just now are the relationship and the situation of the Palestinians. We have Gaza, Gaza, 2 million miserable people under the rule of 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 members of terror organizations. And we cannot negotiate with terror organization, nevertheless we have to negotiate with somebody. We have the Egyptian in between, the go-between, and it is sort of a problem because the Egyptian are really separate themselves from the Gazan people, so all the burden and everything that goes out from Gaza goes towards Israel, and there is no relationship between the Palestinian entity and Gaza, and the Palestinian entity are under the feeling that it is possible that Israel would like to bring to the collapse of the Palestinian entity.

We know how to really run the situation and how to deal with that matter. Nevertheless, if the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on. I must say and the chief of the intelligence general, our general, is here to answer questions if you have any kind of question and to tell you what is going on in Lebanon, because we know that you are visiting Lebanon tomorrow and that you are in a very good friendship. I would like only to mention that once we are talking about Lebanon we are in a situation that I have explained the president of France that Prime Minister Hariri cannot say to anyone that Lebanon is separated from the Hizballah, and the Hizballah is not part of Lebanon, because if somebody will happen from Lebanon towards Israel we will hold Lebanon as the responsible. And everything that concern us at the end of the day will concern you, so welcome, welcome.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll be very brief and then we’ll have a good conversation once these folks depart. I first of all want to say thank you for hosting me. Having had the chance to travel here many times, you should know that you have no better friend than the United States. Your point about the priority of our relationships is very real. We don’t just talk about it. We execute it every day, and it benefits each of our two nations.

And I look forward to our conversation. You talked about Hamas, Hizballah, the Houthis – all of these entities that present risk to Middle East stability and to Israel. They’re determined to wipe this country off the face of the planet, and we have a moral obligation and a political one to prevent that from happening. You should know the United States is prepared to do that. So thank you for having me here today.

PRESIDENT RIVLIN: Sure. Thank you so much. Thank you.