Prime Minister’s right-wing Likud party wins surprise victory, sweeping past rival Zionist Union in bitter campaign.
The US has criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following his re-election victory for abandoning his commitment to negotiate for a Palestinian state and for what it called “divisive” campaign rhetoric towards minority Arab voters.
In its first public response to Netanyahu’s victory, the White House said on Wednesday that it’s “deeply concerned” about divisive language emanating from Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
Even as President Barack Obama’s administration congratulated Netanyahu for his party’s decisive win, the
White House signaled its deep disagreements with Netanyahu will persist on issues ranging from Middle East peacemaking to Iran nuclear talks.
In the final days of campaigning, Netanyahu backtracked on his support for eventual creation of a Palestinian state – the cornerstone of more than two decades of peace efforts – and promised to go on building illegal settlements on occupied land.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest reaffirmed Obama’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and said that based on Netanyahu’s comments, “the United States will evaluate our approach to this situation moving forward”.
Netanyahu’s insistence that there will be no Palestinian state while he holds office, seen as a manoeuvre to mobilise his base when his re-election prospects were flagging, drew criticism from the UN and European governments.
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said: “Many people are saying that it’s a kind of threat to the prime minister.”
“They’re saying that the US could go to the UN security council, or not block action against Israel in the International Criminal Court.”
The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens
Earnest said the administration would also communicate its concern directly to the Israeli government over much-criticised rhetoric used by Netanyahu’s campaign.
Netanyahu charged on election day in Israel that opponents were trying to get Arab-Israeli voters out “in droves” to sway the election against him.
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalise Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest said.
Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s population of eight million and have long complained about discrimination.
A collection of Israeli Arab parties that ran together as the Arab Joint List claimed third place in Tuesday’s election with 13 seats.
Although Netanyahu must still put together a coalition, his victory all but guarantees that Israel’s president will give him the first opportunity to form a government.
However, “the unprecedented security cooperation between the US and Israel, including our strong military and intelligence relationship, will continue,” Earnest said.