Shortly after his meeting with his Israeli counterpart on Friday, the US secretary of defense met with the Israeli president and prime minister in separate meetings in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received James Mattis and praised the relations between the two countries. “Israel has no better friend than America,” he began. “America has no better friend than Israel. And this is a partnership based on common values in the deepest sense of the word. We sense a great change in the direction of American policy.
“We know that the very clear and forthright words, Mr. Secretary, that you had to say about Iran, this follows very strong and forthright words on the part of President Trump and very forthright deeds against the use of chemical weapons by Iran's proxy, Syria. This has been appreciated around the world and in our region. I think this is a welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and American policy.”
Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman accompanied Mattis to his working meeting with President Reuven Rivlin. The head of state welcomed Mattis and spoke of the high regard with which the former general was held by 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 historic military aid package deal.
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 makes 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 (and) 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.”
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.