Netanyahu denies rooting for Romney, as critics fear weakened US-Israel ties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is strongly denying having rooted for GOP nominee Mitt Romney during the presidential election, as his domestic rivals accuse him of undermining the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

“There are those among us who are trying to cause conflict between us and the United States. They won't get away with it,” Netanyahu said Thursday, according to the newspaper Haaretz. “The alliance with the U.S. is firm.”

Netanyahu has been criticized by many who saw him as publicly supporting Romney, a longtime friend, over Obama, with whom he has had an often icy relationship.

President Obama on Thursday returned Netanyahu's call congratulating him for his reelection, the White House said, and expressed his “desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead.” The president shared the same message with the leaders of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and NATO.

Still, some Israelis are worried that Netanyahu could have cost the country some much-needed goodwill as the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran looms ever nearer. 

Netanyahu's comments were in response to his predecessor, Ehud Olmert of the centrist Kadima Party, who lambasted the prime minister during a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York on Wednesday.

"Following what Netanyahu did in the last few months, the question arises of whether or not our prime minister has a friend in the White House," Olmert is reported to have said.

In an apparent bid to minimize the damage, Netanyahu told lawmakers of his conservative Likud Party to stop bashing Obama, Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday.

The U.S.-Israel relationship played an important role in the presidential race, with Romney accusing the White House of being a weak ally to Israel and of failing to do enough to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

Both the Obama and Netanyahu administrations have vowed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but the two leaders have clashed over whether to spell out red lines that Iran should not cross.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu also appeared on television with U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, congratulating Obama on his reelection. 

"I think the United States of America again demonstrated why it's the greatest democracy on earth," Netanyahu said. "The security relationship between the United States and Israel is rock-solid, and I look forward to working with President Obama to further strengthen this relationship."