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PM to Obama: Election win was 'vote of confidence'
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
08/11/2012
Netanyahu seeks to ease tensions with the US president, hosts US Ambassador Shapiro in Jerusalem.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu personally congratulated US President Barack Obama Thursday for securing another four years in the White House and told him in a telephone call that his reelection had been “a vote of confidence in your leadership.”

In the call, Netanyahu said he looked forward to continuing to work with Obama to address the great challenges facing both the US and Israel, as well as to advance peace and security in the Middle East.

News of the personal conversation between the two leaders was released both by the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House.

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According to the Washington, Obama made 13 phones calls to world leaders, including Netanyahu, to return congratulatory messages.

“In each call, he thanked his counterparts for their friendship and partnership thus far, and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead,” the White House said.

Obama’s call came as Netanyahu worked to reassure the US leader and the Israeli public that any past tensions between them won’t affect their relationship in the future.

“In recent days, I have been hearing voices – that are coming from among us – that are trying to stir things up between us and United States,” Netanyahu said earlier on Thursday.

“This will not help them,” the prime minister said at a cornerstone-laying ceremony at the hospital under construction in Ashdod.

“The alliance between Israel and the United States is strong. We have a strategic partnership. We have cooperation in all areas, but especially in the security sphere; there, cooperation is deep, broad and fundamental,” Netanyahu said. “One of the foundations of our security is the brave partnership between us and the United States.”

On Wednesday, the prime minister hosted US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro in his Jerusalem office to pledge his support for Obama.

At a meeting with Jewish community leaders in New York on Wednesday, former prime minister Ehud Olmert slammed Netanyahu for supporting Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney during the US election campaign.

“Netanyahu’s behavior in recent months brings up the question [of whether] Netanyahu has a friend in the White House, and I’m not sure [he does],” Olmert said. “This could be very critical in certain areas.”

Senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath told Israel Radio on Thursday, “It was very clear that Mr. Netanyahu would have preferred Mr. Romney.”

Commentators have speculated that Obama might now “seek revenge” against the prime minister. They have also expressed concern that Netanyahu’s actions during the elections might have harmed American Israeli ties.

One Channel 2 journalist asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak both these questions, and even speculated that Obama might now try and interfere in the Israeli elections by working against Netanyahu.

Barak rejected both these ideas.

An Israel Radio journalist also asked the US ambassador about the possibility of payback during an interview on Thursday morning, conducted in Hebrew.

Shapiro dismissed the idea that Obama would determine US policy based on his emotional reaction to a head of government.

He also said that Obama was motivated by strategy, not revenge. He noted that as president, Obama had a responsibility to preserve America’s strategic interests, one of which was its strong ties with Israel.

“The close working relationship will continue,” the ambassador said.

Netanyahu, he said, was the elected leader of a significant American ally. As a result, it was important for Obama to have a good relationship with him.

Shapiro said he had been with the two men during their nine face-to-face meetings. In each meeting they spoke in an open manner, he said. He added that they often spoke on the phone. Their emissaries were charged with deepening the relationship, the ambassador said.

“It does not mean that there is no disagreement between the nations,” he said. “We are good enough friends to disagree, and still work together to find a solution.”

Shapiro said that when he met Netanyahu on Wednesday, he accepted his warm congratulations on behalf of the US president.

“We spoke about all the issues that we are working together on, the attempt to resume direct negotiations with the Palestinians, to prevent their unilateral steps at the UN, and to halt Iran nuclear program,” he said.

Shapiro also met with Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich in Tel Aviv, where she congratulated him on Obama’s reelection.

She expressed admiration for the US president’s economic and social reforms.

“Obama is a true friend of Israel and I am sure that in his second term he will continue to stand by Israel in diplomatic, security and international affairs,” Yacimovich said.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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