Obama congratulates PM amid alleged tension

US president tells Netanyahu he looks forward to "working closely" with new gov't; Martin Indyk says two leaders have "bad chemistry."

January 28, 2013 19:43
2 minute read.
Netanyahu and Obama shake hands

Netanyahu and Obama shake hands 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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US President Barack Obama on Monday called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on "his party’s success in winning a plurality of Knesset seats."

During the phone call, Obama told Netanyahu he looks forward to working with the new government, and reiterated his commitment to the "deep and enduring bonds" between Israel and the United States.

Obama also pledged to the prime minister to "work closely with Israel" on their "shared agenda for peace and security in the Middle East."

The phone call came almost a week after the prime minister won a narrow victory in the election on Tuesday, giving credence to reports that the two leaders had less than cordial relations. 

Former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told the Israeli media on Monday that while US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu do indeed have chemistry, at the moment it is "bad chemistry."

Speaking to Army Radio, Indyk called it a "mistake" for Obama not to visit Jerusalem on his pre-election trip to Israel in 2008, and that he erred in not visiting Jerusalem since. It is "very important" that Israelis come to see Obama  as "a man that is deeply committed to Israel's security."

With regard to Obama's state of mind, Indyk said that he believes, "President Obama is feeling quite frustrated because he rightly feels that he has done the right thing by Israel, but Israel is not responsive."    

Indyk suggested that once Netanyahu has formed his new government, he should "reach out to President Obama and try to turn a new page." He added that the "relations between the United States and Israel are more important than the differences between the two leaders." Referring to these tensions, which have been widely reported, Indyk said that the two heads of state "need to overcome them."

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in which he played a role during his two stints as American envoy to Israel in the 1990s, Indyk said that, unlike Netanyahu, he believes Israel does have a partner for peace in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"There is a partner and he's just up the road in Ramallah, his name is Abu Mazen [Abbas] and he's committed to peace with Israel and to the two-state solution and to preventing violence and terrorism."  He said that Israel, "which holds almost all the cards must find a way to deal with him." It is not enough for the Israelis to put their "head in the sand... and say there is no partner and therefore we don't have to worry about it anymore."

Indyk said that recent Israeli elections, in which social issues were a major factor, showed "Israelis want a normal life," but warned that, "they cannot have a normal life until they resolve the Palestinian problem."

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