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Obama Aide Stops Short of Congratulating Netanyahu on Vote

Image: Obama Aide Stops Short of Congratulating Netanyahu on Vote
(Amir Cohen/Reuters/Landov)

Wednesday, 18 Mar 2015 12:12 PM

The Obama administration stopped short of congratulating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his party’s election victory, sitting on the sidelines until the coalition-building process plays out following Tuesday’s vote.

“We’re going to give space to the formation of that coalition government,” David Simas, director of political strategy and outreach, told CNN Wednesday. “We’re not going to weigh in one way or another.”

Simas didn’t mention Netanyahu, who declared victory, by name. Instead, he congratulated the Israeli people for the “democratic process.”

A Netanyahu victory complicates two of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy objectives -- a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that includes a two-state solution and an accord to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

As the election approached, Netanyahu advocated forcefully against both, including in a speech to the U.S. Congress last month warning against the Iran nuclear deal. At the time, Obama declined to meet with Netanyahu, citing the vote.

In the waning days of the campaign, Netanyahu said he wouldn’t allow the establishment of a Palestinian state if he was re-elected, according to an interview posted on NRG news website Monday. The remarks reflected a reversal from an earlier position favoring a two-state solution, the preferred outcome of the White House.

Palestinian Statehood

The Obama administration, which has publicly criticized Netanyahu for building settlements on disputed land, said it still favors the creation of a Palestinian state.

“The policy of the United States about the two-state solution remains,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday before the election results were known. “We believe it is in the best interest of our close allies in Israel. We also believe it’s in the interest of the Palestinian people.”

White House officials have said the U.S. would work closely with the winner of the election and maintain strong ties with Israel, despite the growing number of policy disagreements with Netanyahu.

“The United States and Israel have a historic and close relationship and that will continue going forward,” Simas said.

Netanyahu’s victory comes as the U.S. faces an end-of-month deadline for a framework agreement in negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program. The Israeli prime minister has criticized the talks and said the deal would put Iran on the path to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Nuclear Threat

“That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told a joint session of Congress on March 3. “It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.”

Obama said the prime minister “didn’t offer any viable alternatives” during the speech.

Netanyahu emerged from Tuesday’s election in a stronger position to form his fourth government, with his Likud Party on track to capture as many as 30 seats in the 120-member parliament. He said he would work quickly to put together a ruling coalition.


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The Obama administration stopped short of congratulating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his party's election victory, sitting on the sidelines until the coalition-building process plays out following Tuesday's vote. "We're going to give space to the formation...
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2015-12-18
Wednesday, 18 Mar 2015 12:12 PM
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