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Israeli president in US slams state policy on Palestinians

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin holds talks with representatives of parliamentary parties in Jerusalem, on March 22, 2015
Menahem Kahana (AFP)
Rivlin says Israeli government should enhance business cooperation to build trust between two peoples

Analysis: Netanyahu's mission accomplished

On the eve of his first White House visit, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has called on the Israeli government to take confidence-building steps towards the Palestinians and to enhance Israeli and Palestinian business cooperation in order to build trust between the two peoples and their leaderships.

In an op-ed published Tuesday in the Washington Post titled "What Israel should do to lay the groundwork for peace", Rivlin suggests that with no viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict currently in sight, Israel needs to take "effective action to improve the prospect" that Jews and Arabs will be able to live together, such as the building of the new Palestinian city, Rawabi, and cultivating business and cultural channels of communication and cooperation.

Rivlin, whose position is a ceremonial one, points to a joint responsibility and calls on the Palestinian leadership to end incitement and violence, however, in a rare criticism of Israeli governments policies, the president calls out Israel's "neglect" of east Jerusalem, accusing successive governments of "abandoning" the security of Jewish inhabitants and the welfare of Arab ones. "Does anyone think that dealing with the sewage, roads, schools and medical centers of eastern Jerusalem can or should wait until the end of the conflict?" he writes in the op-ed.

Rivlins plan - and criticism - arrive on the eve of his first meeting with US president Barack Obama, which will take place Wednesday. This is a much anticipated meeting in the wake of the well-known tense relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama enjoyed a close relationship with Rivlin's predecessor, Shimon Peres, and the line of communication they built was crucial during various points of contention between Netanyahu and the White House. Rivlin's own relationship with Netanyahu has seen its fair share of ups and downs, and the prime minister is not expected to appreciate Rivlin's statements, especially as he has been adamantly refusing recent American pressure to take confidence building steps towards the Palestinians.

Rivlin and Obama are ideologically miles apart, the former is a well known one-state supporter and the latter a strong advocate of the two-state solution, however the Israeli president has also been quoted recently using the term "two states".

Last week, Israel Radio published an excerpt of a interview he gave to French website Politico last year, in which he detailed his well known plan to combine Israel and the Palestinians into a joint confederation, while referring to the Israeli and Palestinian entities that would make up the confederation as two states. However, the President's Office denied any change to Rivlin's traditional positions, and said the excerpt misrepresented his wider position, which was detailed in length in the interview.

Ahead of his visit to the white house, Rivlin will hold a series of meetings with the House and Senate leadership on Capitol Hill. After meeting Obama in the Oval Office, the president and his wife will be the guests of honor at the White House Hanukkah reception. On Thursday, Rivlin is expected to address the Brookings Institute before leaving to New York for the weekend.

Tal Shalev is the diplomatic correspondent at i24news

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With all due respect Mr. President i believe you are too naive & too liberal to be President.

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