WASHINGTON (AA) – The Obama administration on Wednesday lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following controversial statements he made in the run-up to Israel’s parliamentary elections.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One that Netanyahu’s comments asserting that he would not allow a Palestinian state to be created if he were to be elected “indicated a change” in the prime minister’s position that would prompt the U.S. to reassess its position.
“Based on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments, the United States will reevaluate our position and the path forward in this situation,” 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.”
Earnest said the U.S. will continue to believe a two-state solution is “best way to diffuse tensions” in the region.
Exit-poll results following Tuesday’s vote indicated Netanyahu’s Likud party took the lead with 30 seats, while its center-left rival, the Zionist Union alliance, came in second with 24 seats.
Netanyahu’s peace process comments were just one in a string of controversial statements he made in the run-up to the Knesset’s tightly-contested polls.
The Israeli leader also complained Tuesday that the future of his right-wing party was in jeopardy due to high Arab-Israeli voter turnout.
“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are bussing them out,” Netanyahu said in a video posted to his Facebook page, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
Earnest said that Netanyahu’s comments “sought to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens.”
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens. It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together,” he said.
Arab-Israelis constitute approximately 20 percent of the country’s population.
Secretary of State John Kerry did not address any substantive issues with Netanyahu during a congratulatory phone call Wednesday morning, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
President Barack Obama will also call Netanyahu in the coming days, according to Earnest.
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