Kerry calls to congratulate victorious Netanyahu

DC signals displeasure with comments on two states; Obama expected to call in coming days.

US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry briefly called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to congratulate him on his victory, even as the State Department was “evaluating” its approach to the diplomatic process following Netanyahu’s comments that he would not support a two-state solution.
President Barack Obama is expected to phone Netanyahu and congratulate him on his victory in the coming days. In 2013, when there was less tension between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama phoned the premier five days after the election returns were published.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refrained during the daily press briefing from characterizing the “tone” of Kerry’s call, other than to say that the two men had not discussed “substantive” issues.
Jerusalem issued no read-out on the call.
Referring to comments Netanyahu made on Monday – the day before the election – that a Palestinian state would not be established under his tenure, Psaki reiterated that the US position, as well as that of successive Israeli governments, had been that only a two-state solution could bring peace and stability to Israel and the Palestinians.
“A two-state solution is the only way for the next government to secure Israel as a Jewish democratic state,” she said. “We believe that it is [in] the best interest of the United States, Israel and the region.”
She said that given Netanyahu’s recent comments, the US would “evaluate our approach about how best to achieve a two-state solution.”
She declined, however, to spell out what that meant.
Among the possibilities that have been raised in the past are that Obama would present a US plan for how Washington thinks a solution should look, or either support or abstain on a UN Security Council resolution advocating a two-state solution.
The UN said on Wednesday that it expects Israel to continue with the Middle East peace process to negotiate a Palestinian state following Netanyahu’s reelection.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the preliminary results of the election and hoped for the rapid establishment of a new government, said spokesman Farhan Haq.
“It is incumbent on the new Israeli government, once formed, to create the conditions for a negotiated final peace agreement, with the active engagement of the international community, that will end the Israeli occupation and realize the creation of a viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security alongside Israel,” Haq told reporters.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, meanwhile, addressed Netanyahu’s Election Day comments about Arab voters “going in large numbers to the polls,” saying that the US and the Obama administration were “deeply concerned” about rhetoric that “seeks to marginalize Israeli citizens.”
According to Earnest, that rhetoric “undermines the values of democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy, and an important part of what binds the US and Israel together.”
Leading Republicans, meanwhile, such as prospective presidential candidate Jeb Bush, Senate Foreign Relations Committee head Bob Corker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz issued congratulatory statements.
Bush posted a Twitter message that read, “Congratulations to Prime Minister @netanyahu on his re-election.
He’s a true leader who will continue to keep Israel strong and secure.”
Another Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, tweeted, “It appears @Netanyahu overcame force of the Obama $ & staff. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem.”
He characterized Netanyahu in a follow-up tweet as “a true friend to the US. I join millions of Americans in congratulating this man of courage, candor and strength.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep.
Nancy Pelosi of California, who was highly critical of Netanyahu’s recent speech to Congress, said that “the people of Israel have spoken. I respect the results that they have produced. I think that what they have produced will be a continued lively discussion about the peace process.”
World leaders, too, had congratulations for Netanyahu, who received a phone call from Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a congratulatory message, in both English and Hebrew, referring to his “friend Bibi,” saying he recalled “warmly” their meeting in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted that he looked forward to working with the new government once it was formed, and that Israel “has no greater friend” than Canada.
Britain’s David Cameron, meanwhile, took to Twitter to say that as one of Israel’s “firmest friends,” the UK “looks forward to working with the new government.”
EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini also congratulated Netanyahu, both calling and issuing a statement that the EU was committed to working with the new Israeli government “on a mutually beneficial relationship as well as on the re-launch of the peace process.”
Mogherini’s statement said that “we are at a crucial moment, with many threats all over the Middle East.”
Without mentioning Netanyahu’s distancing himself from the two-state solution, she said the EU “staunchly supports a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the interest of the Israeli people, of the Palestinian people and of the whole region. We are at your side, you can count on us.”
The statement added that “bold leadership” was needed more than ever to “reach a comprehensive, stable and viable settlement of a conflict that has already deprived too many generations of peace and security.”
The statement came just two days after Mogherini appointed a new EU Middle East envoy, a move that diplomatic officials said was a signal that the EU intended to take a more robust role in the diplomatic process.
Less warm comments came from Iran: Its Foreign Ministry said there was no difference between Israel’s political parties and called them all “aggressors.”
Reuters contributed to this report.