White House Criticizes “Divisive” Netanyahu Rhetoric

YERUSHALAYIM -

While congratulatory statements from Canada, Britain, India and the EU greeted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s come-from-behind victory on Wednesday, the White House issued criticism of the use of what it considered to be “divisive rhetoric” in the election campaign.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling on Air Force One that the United States would communicate its concern about Netanyahu’s Election Day remarks decrying the “busing in” of “droves” of Arab Israelis to topple him directly to the Israelis.

The rhetoric “sought to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest said.

U.S. President Barack Obama will call Netanyahu to congratulate him “in the coming days,” Earnest added, explaining that in previous elections Obama did not telephone Netanyahu until he was directed by the Israeli president to form a government.

Netanyahu’s revised position vis-à-vis a Palestinian state, which he now opposes, also drew comment from the press secretary. Earnest noted obliquely that Netanyahu has “indicated a change in his position” and “the United States will reevaluate our approach” to the situation.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry called Netanyahu to congratulate him following the victory.State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday night that “the United States is looking forward to working with the next Israeli government.”

Republican leaders were notably less reserved. “Congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu on his re-election. He’s a true leader who will continue to keep Israel strong and secure,”said Jeb Bush.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker hailed Netanyahu, as well as leftist challenger Yitzhak Herzog for “his competitive run.”

Senator Ted Cruz late Tuesday applauded a Netanyahu victory and assured that Americans “are proud to stand steadfastly with our Israeli brothers.”

Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, said on Wednesday, “The people of Israel have spoken. I respect the results that they have produced. I think that what they have produced will be a continued lively discussion about the peace process.”

European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini on Wednesday congratulated Netanyahu on his reelection, and said the EU was committed to working with the new Israeli government “on a mutually beneficial relationship as well as on the relaunch of the peace process.” She did not mention Netanyahu’s retreat from the two-state solution.

Palestinian leaders on Wednesday urged a renewing of international pressure on Israel and support for their unilateral moves toward statehood following the election.

“It is clear Israel has voted for burying the peace process, against the two-state choice,” Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator in talks with Israel that collapsed in April, told Voice of Palestine radio.

The Arab League chief Nabi Arabi dismissed as “electioneering” Netanyahu’s pledge to oppose a Palestinian state if reelected.