Itongadol.- Israelis and Palestinians cannot reach any agreement without the basic ability to sit together as partners, President Reuven Rivlin told members of The Foreign Press Association in Israel on Wednesday at a meeting at Jerusalem\’s King David hotel.
Partnership must begin with dialogue and not just with words, he insisted. "There must be mutual understanding and respect."
Emphasizing the short distance from the hotel to the old city which has been the scene of so much strife and bloodshed in recent weeks, including during the time that he was speaking, Rivlin said that what has happened in the past few weeks is heart breaking and must be condemned.
"Whoever has turned this into a religious war has blood on his hands."
Relating to Palestinian and other allegations about Israeli attempts to violate the status quo with regard to the Temple Mount, Rivlin was adamant that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo, but added that two sides are required to keep it.
Israel will continue to respect the Muslim rights to the Temple Mount said Rivlin, but they must respect the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the holy sites.
"When a Palestinian leader says that Jews are spoiling the holy city, the world must speak up," he declared, urging his audience to imagine what would happen if the same was said about Muslims or Christians.
Several times both during his address and during question time, Rivlin came out with his mantra of equality and freedom for all citizens while maintaining a Jewish and Democratic state, but acknowledged that many people have difficulty in reconciling the two.
Veering slightly away from the topic, Rivlin turned from dialogue with the Palestinians to dialogue with the media, asserting that no particular government, party or individual should be allowed to distort reports of what is happening in Israel.
He said that he was proud to be part of the dialogue between Israel and the media.
Some journalists, recalling Rivlin\’s opposition to a two state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians when he was a Likud member of Knesset were curious as to whether his views have changed and tried in vain to pry such information out of him.
The closest Rivlin came to admitting that his views remain concrete was when he said "My own point of view is not relevant since I became President of Israel," but added that a person who changes his mind all the time does not get to be elected president.
One of Rivlin\’s other mantras in relation to the Palestinians is "We are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together." This also came up in both his address and when he was answering questions and here again, when relating both to Israel\’s Arab population and to the Palestinians, Rivlin said "They have to realize that Israel is a reality and to respect the idea that Israel is a state in the family of nations.
While the settlement issue continues to be raised in Palestinian complaints to international organizations, Rivlin was convinced that the settlements are not an obstacle to a peace agreement.
"Jerusalem is the heart of the conflict" he said. "Splitting Jerusalem will bring us to more chaos."