After wait, Obama congratulates Netanyahu on election victory

US President Barack Obama on Thursday called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his recent election win, after a campaign that seemed to sour relations between the two allies.

Obama spoke to the Israeli leader “to congratulate him on his party’s success in winning a plurality of Knesset seats,” the National Security Council said in a statement.

According to the White House, Obama “emphasized the importance the United States places on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries.”

The two leaders “agreed to continue consultations on a range of regional issues, including the difficult path forward to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Some pundits had seen a delay in Obama calling Netanyahu as a sign of poor ties between the two [cough].

In the lead-up to the elections, Netanyahu disavowed his commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, remarks he later retracted after his election victory.

“The President reaffirmed the United States’ long-standing commitment to a two-state solution that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestine,” the White House said in a statement.

Earlier, spokespeople in the White House and State Department indicated the US would re-evaluate its approach to the peace process and its support for Israel in the United Nations in the wake of Netanyahu’s comments [cough].

Netanyahu’s Likud party swept the national elections on Tuesday, taking nearly 25% of the vote, winning 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

The landslide victory over the Zionist Union, which won 24 seats, places Netanyahu in a secure position to form a governing coalition.

Ties between Netanyahu and Obama reached historic lows earlier this month with the Israeli prime minister’s speech before a joint session of Congress in Washington in which he criticized a developing nuclear deal with Iran. The address was coordinated over the head of the White House, to the ire of Obama.

On the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, which has been a point of contention between Netanyahu and Obama, the White House said that the president “reiterated that the United States is focused on reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and verifiably assures the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”

The two also discussed Netanyahu’s comments on Israeli Arab voter turnout, according to CNN.

Netanyahu was accused of race-baiting after calling for support by claiming that Arabs were voting in high numbers during election day Tuesday.

On Thursday, the White House called the move a “cynical election day tactic.”

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