The Obama administration added fuel to U.S.-Israeli tensions on Wednesday, stopping short of congratulating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his come-from-behind election victory.
Instead, White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach director David Simas told CNN that Israelis should feel good about voting.
‘We want to congratulate the Israeli people for the democratic process – for the election that they just engaged in, with all the parties that engaged in that election,’ Simas said.
‘As you know, now the hard work of coalition building begins. Sometimes that takes a couple of weeks. And we’re going to give space to the formation of that coalition government.’
White House Director of Polictal Strategy David Simas said ‘we aren’t goign to weigh in one way or another’ on Netanyahu’s crushing electoral win
COLD SHOULDER: The White House could only offer congratulations to the Israeli people for holding an election – and hasn’t yet offered any kind words for Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party scored a resounding victory in the country’s election
Likud party supporters react with joy after hearing exit poll results in Tel Aviv
President Barack Obama drew fire two weeks ago for refusing to meet ith Netanyahu when he visited Washington for an historic speech to a joint meeting of Congress that was arranged behind his back.
And conservatives howled when his former top campaign organizer, Jeremy Bird, turned up in Tel Aviv as the leader of a group working to oust Netanyahu – aided by a $350,000 State Department grant paid out last year.
Netanyahu was quick to condemn what he called funding ‘from abroad’ of the group, called V15, whose stated goal was to remove him from power.
But when the dust settled, Bibi’s Likud party had won 30 seats in Israel’s Knesset, while its chief rival the Zionist Union collected just 24.
That result is strong enough for Netanyahu to build a governing coalition with other right-wing and center-right parties – and remain as prime minister.