The makeup of the next coalition government won’t affect the US’s relationship with Israel, the White House said Wednesday, attempting to dispel fears that President Barack Obama’s ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinged on who he partners with for the 19th Knesset.
“What should be recognized is that our relationship with Israel and our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security will continue regardless,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The statement comes a week after a report by Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg that Obama, fed up with Netanyahu’s policies, has said in private conversation that “Israel doesn’t know what its interests are.”
Those remarks were reportedly made in particular reference to Israel’s advancement of building plans in the West Bank over the last two months, as a punitive measure against the Palestinian’s successful status upgrade at the United Nations.
Other reports have also surfaced pointing to Obama and Netanyahu having a more caustic relationship as both settle in to their second terms.
But Carney said Obama and Netanyahu were maintaining positive ties, pointing to the amount of time the two spend speaking to each other over the phone.
“That relationship is strong and it is a relationship that allows for a free and open discussion of ideas and positions,” Carney said.
Carney reiterated the White House’s call for Israel and the Palestinians to engage in direct talk, saying a peace process was needed no matter who sat in the Knesset.
“Our position on the peace process and our pursuit of peace will not change, no matter the result of the government formation process,” Carney said, echoing a similar statement a day earlier.
On Tuesday, Israeli voters gave Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu faction 31 seats, all but guaranteeing his return as prime minister.
However, the centrist Yesh Atid, led by telegenic newcomer Yair Lapid leaped to 19 votes, making it the second largest party and a coalition linchpin. The nationalist Jewish Home party also saw a hike in support, to 12 seats.
Talks to form the 19th government are expected to begin next week.