Figures across the Israeli political spectrum weighed in on US President Barack Obama’s reelection on Wednesday morning.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has close ties with the defeated Republic candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, said, “The strategic alliance between Israel and the United States is stronger than ever. I will continue to work with President Obama to ensure the vital security interests of Israeli citizens.”
Netanyahu reportedly ordered Likud MKs to keep mum on Obama’s reelection, after some of them expressed dissatisfaction with his win. According to Ynet News, the prime minister sent a memo to all ministers and Knesset members, as well as their staff, instructing them to refrain from making statements on the issue without first consulting with the party’s spokesperson.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also congratulated Obama on his reelection. “I have no doubt that the Obama government will continue with its policy, which is based upon Israel’s security, and in its efforts to meet the challenges that the region presents to all of us, while striving for progress in the peace process,” he said. “I believe the deep friendship with Washington will strengthen even if there are differences in position.”
Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich praised Obama’s policies on Iran and said that he has maintained the “historic alliance [with Israel]… and there’s no doubt that it will continue.”
“I am convinced that he will deliver a future of peace and prosperity to the world,” said President Shimon Peres in Moscow, where he received an honorary degree from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also congratulated the president on his election to a second term, and said that “together with President Obama we will continue to promote and preserve the great friendship between the two countries and peoples… We will continue to work with the US to strengthen the State of Israel and maintain our vital strategic interests.”
“The common challenges are huge and the level of cooperation required is enormous,” said Kadima chair and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz. “I am convinced that President Obama and the American people will continue to stand by Israel… the US is a true friend of Israel and there is a need to improve relations and to bolster cooperation.”
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar rejected claims that the Obama victory spelled bad news for Netanyahu. In an interview with Channel 2 news, Sa’ar said Netanyahu had “not bet on Romney as some have suggested, and the fact that the accusation is repeated over and over doesn’t make it true.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said a second-term Obama will be “excellent for Israel,” and will be more effective on Iran than before, thanks to an added measure of “international legitimacy.” Speaking to Channel 2, Ayalon said he anticipated Obama would do two things now that he has been reelected: enter direct negotiations with the Islamic Republic and increase economic sanctions on the regime. “We are in favor of preventing a nuclear Iran. How we go about doing it is not as important,” he said.
Housing Minister Ariel Atias said that “Shas congratulates Obama on his victory. The struggle of this election was about economic policy… and Obama’s victory at this time indicates that struggling citizens need a government that won’t neglect them. We pray for the well-being of the country and for President Obama’s support of Israel in the face of the challenges and threats facing us.”
A statement from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party said: “We urge the president to keep his implicit promise and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability, and move to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The fledgling party also took the opportunity to attack the prime minister for his apparent favoritism of Mitt Romney in the elections. “Yesh Atid calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take immediate steps to correct the shaky relationship with the government in Washington. During the US elections, the prime minister acted and spoke in what was interpreted as crude intervention on behalf of the Republican candidate, which is contrary to normal relations between countries. Repairing the damage caused by this irresponsible behavior is in the supreme interests of Israel.”
Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon (Likud), an outspoken Obama critic, sent congratulations to the president but also expressed hope that the president’s policies vis-a-vis Israel would change. “It is my hope, and that of many Israelis, that the president reset his course relating to Israel and our region for the next four years,” he said.
Danon, who pressed Obama to visit Israel, called a nuclear-armed Iran the “greatest threat to freedom in our time” and said Obama had dictated “ill-advised policies that endanger the well-being of America’s only true ally in the Middle East,” presumably a reference to the Obama administration’s preference for sanctions and diplomacy efforts regarding the Iran issue.
The National Union party issued an official statement saying that “Obama’s victory gives a boost to the Israeli left. In the coming elections, the National Union will help Netanyahu deal with the pressures upon him.”