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Peace on Agenda as Obama, Rivlin Celebrate Hanukkah

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin lights a menorah and sings, joined by President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Nechama Rivlin, in the background, during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Dec. 9, 2015.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday reaffirmed what he called "the unbreakable bond" between the U.S. and Israel while celebrating Hanukkah with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the White House.

Obama said the U.S. wanted to be helpful in reducing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, which have boiled over into a spate of stabbings and other violence lasting several months.

"Although obviously this is a time at which the prospects of serious peace may seem distant, it's important that we continue to try," Obama said after a meeting with Rivlin in the Oval Office.

Both Obama and Rivlin stressed the close ties between the United States and Israel.

Obama was keen to show that his poor relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were not indicative of broader U.S.-Israel ties.

"We consider our commitment to Israel's security to be one of the most important principles of American foreign policy, one that is shared by Democrats and Republicans alike," Obama said.

Later in the afternoon, Obama and his wife, Michelle, hosted Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, for the White House's annual Hanukkah celebration. The Israeli president lit a menorah that was made in his homeland during the 1920s.

"May we be inspired to create something beautiful and lasting in this world," Obama said. "May the warmth of family and friends around the world bring comfort and bring us joy."