Date
24 November 2017
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the Western Wall in Jerusalem after winning reelection. He is being criticized by the US for abandoning his commitment to the Middle East peace process. Photo: Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the Western Wall in Jerusalem after winning reelection. He is being criticized by the US for abandoning his commitment to the Middle East peace process. Photo: Reuters

US rebukes triumphant Netanyahu over Mideast rhetoric

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under fire from the United States for abandoning his commitment to the Middle East peace process.

Washington fired the salvo shortly after Netanyahu declared victory in Tuesday’s election for what it called Netanyahu’s “divisive” campaign rhetoric toward Israel’s minority Arab voters, Reuters reported Thursday.

President Barack Obama’s administration congratulated Netanyahu for his party’s decisive win but signaled its deep disagreement with issues ranging from Middle East peacemaking to Iran nuclear diplomacy.

In a hard-right shift 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 continue building Jewish settlements on occupied land.

Such policies could put him on a new collision course with the Obama administration.

Some Obama aides had privately left little doubt during the Israeli election campaign of their preference for Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu’s center-left challenger, 

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 maneuver to mobilize his right-wing base, angered the Palestinians and drew criticism from the United Nations and European governments.

Chances for restarting long-stalled peace moves already had been low.

US lawmakers were divided on Netanyahu’s hardened stance.

“It was remarkable to back-track so significantly on a two-state solution,” said Democratic US Senator Chris Murphy, adding it could make Washington’s effort to mediate more difficult.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham expressed hoped the US and Israel would see the election as “an opportunity to start over”.

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CG/RA

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