Published On: Wed, Mar 18th, 2015

Obama Administration Faces Netanyahu’s Win with Disappointment, Consternation

Press secretary Ernest noted that after past Israeli elections, Obama had waited until the Israeli president had invited the winner to form a new government.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest

Secretary of State John Kerry called Netanyahu the night of the Tuesday election, to congratulate him, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

Obama is going to do the same in the days ahead, Earnest said. He noted that after past Israeli elections, Obama had waited until the Israeli president had invited the winner to form a new government.

Still, unable to let bygones be bygones, the Obama Administration’s first public response to Netanyahu’s stunning victory in Tuesday’s election came from Earnest who said the White House was “deeply concerned” about divisive language emanating from Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Earnest said the Likud tried to marginalize Israel’s Arabs—his take on late-stage social media posts by the Likud warning about the danger of high turnout by Arab voters.

“These are views the administration intends to convey directly to the Israelis, ” Earnest said.

The posts and clips Earnest referred to were real, and shameful enough. But that’s not the first point one makes following a remarkable recovery by a close ally.

It threw a shadow over the more conciliatory things Earnest said when he was asked if the President “believe that he can repair his relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu if he is to remain the Prime Minister.”

Earnest answered that “the President has no doubt that the strong ties between the United States and Israel will endure far beyond this election. And that has been true for generations now, that the U.S.-Israel relationship is not one that has been subject historically to partisanship and not one that has been subject to intense, partisan political debate. But rather, because of our deep cultural ties, because of the deep ties between our people, because of our shared interests when it comes to national security in the Middle East, that the strong relationship between the United States and Israel will endure far beyond this upcoming election, or the election that’s being held today.”

Nice, right? Should have opened with that.

The State Department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked about Netanyahu’s emphatic, pre-election declaration that he would not allow a Palestinian state to become a reality. In light of this, would the U.S. still try to dissuade the PLO from suing Israel in the International Criminal Court over the Jewish settlements.

“Would you ask or did you ask the Palestinians to sort of back away or not pursue any of that effort?” was the question.

Psaki, possibly a more seasoned press secretary, opened with “we congratulate the citizens of Israel on today’s election. The reported large turnout is another reminder of the vibrancies – vibrancy of Israel’s democracy and why the United States will remain firm in our commitment to our deep and abiding partnership with Israel. Voting is still ongoing and no official results have been released yet. We look forward to working with the next Israeli Government, including on our shared agreement for peace and security in the Middle East. I don’t have any other predictions for you.”

As to the Ndetanyahu “the Arab are voting, the Arabs are voting” moment, Psaki said “We have seen reports about his statements. What we’ve always admired about Israel is its vibrancy as a democracy, which includes the right of all citizens to vote, whether they’re Arab or Jewish citizens. And we’re always concerned, broadly speaking, about any statements that may be aimed at marginalizing certain communities.”

You see? There’s an order to things — first you congratulate, then criticize. It’s the civilized way.

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