U.S. voices concern over Israel poll rhetoric

Mar 19, 2015, 12:39 AM EDT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara waves to supporters as reacts to exit poll figures in Israel's parliamentary elections late on March 17, 2015 in the city of Tel Aviv.
AFP/Getty Images

The White House has condemned what it called "divisive rhetoric" in the Israeli election, won by Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, reports the BBC.

The U.S., E.U. and U.N. have also urged him to continue with the two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. During campaigning, Mr Netanyahu said he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state if re-elected. He aims to build a new coalition government within two to three weeks, his party says.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: "It has been the policy of the United States for more than 20 years that a two-state solution is the goal of resolving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians."

The U.S would "re-evaluate our approach" in the wake of Netanyahu's comments ruling out a Palestinian state, he said. On a warning from Mr Netanyahu that his opponents were bussing Arab-Israeli voters to polling stations, he said: "Rhetoric that seeks to marginalise one segment of their population is deeply concerning and it is divisive, and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis."

Earnest added that President Barack Obama was yet to congratulate Netanyahu on his win but would do so in the coming days once he had been directed to form a government, as in previous elections. U.N. spokeswoman Farhan Haq called on the new Israeli government to negotiate a peace that would create "a viable Palestinian state".

While supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent Wednesday celebrating his surprise victory at the polls, the Obama administration took a much dimmer view of the results.

A senior administration official said that Netanyahu's sharp tacks to the right before Tuesday's vote -- in which he ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state, a pillar of U.S. policy in the Middle East -- "raise very significant substantive concerns" for the White House, and that "we have to reassess our options going forward."

Reuters writes that Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator in peace talks that collapsed last year, lamented "the success of a campaign based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people."

Likud said Netanyahu intended to form a new government within weeks, with negotiations already under way with the far-right pro-settler Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, the centrist Kulanu party and ultra-Orthodox groups.

The critical party to get on side will be Kulanu, led by former Likud member and communications minister Moshe Kahlon, who won 10 seats, making him a kingmaker given his ability to side with either Netanyahu or the center-left opposition.