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EXCLUSIVE: Obama in letter to Rivlin: ‘I could always count on you as a source of advice and partnership’

Former President Barack Obama expressed his deep appreciation to outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for his friendship and partnership in a farewell letter obtained by the Forward.

Rivlin, 81, ended his seven-year term as president on Wednesday after more than three decades of public service.

“Congratulations on a remarkable career and thanks for your friendship over the years,” Obama wrote to Rivlin in a letter dated May 25. “You have always been a staunch supporter of the close friendship between the United States and Israel, and during my time as President I could always count on you as a source of advice and partnership.”

Obama Rivlin letter

Rivlin came into office in July of 2014 at a challenging time for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waged a battle against the Obama administration to foil the nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Netanyahu snubbed the U.S. president by delivering a fiery speech to a joint session of Congress on March 3, 2015 in opposition to the deal.

Rivlin, who had a rocky relationship with Netanyahu, was invited later that year to light the menorah at the annual White House Chanukah party. Obama recalled that visit in the letter, saying he “enjoyed” the opportunities “to talk and meet together.”

President Rivlin meets US President Obama in the White House, light Chanukah candles together

President Rivlin meets US President Obama in the White House, light Chanukah candles together on December 10, 2015 Image by Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Obama concluded, “The work of the United States and Israel in pursuit of peace, security, and democratic progress is never done, but your leadership on behalf of unity and democracy within Israel and partnership abroad set a positive example for those who will follow in your footsteps.”

Isaac Herzog, a former member of the Knesset and son of former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, will be sworn in as Israel’s 11th president at a special ceremony at the Knesset on Wednesday.

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