The White House on Wednesday criticized Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE for comments the Israeli prime minister made about Arab-Israeli voters during the run-up to his stunning win in parliamentary elections.
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “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.”
“Rhetoric that seeks to marginalize one segment of their population is deeply concerning and it is divisive and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis," he added.
Right before Tuesday's elections, Netanyahu rallied conservative voters by saying that the left was trying to win by turning out Arab voters.
Netanyahu came back to claim victory after earlier polls had shown him in a tight race with his main opposition.
Earnest also said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had called Netanyahu to congratulate him, adding that President Obama will call Netanyahu “in the coming days.”
Earnest said that in the past two Israeli elections, Obama has waited to call Netanyahu until after he was selected to establish a coalition. He said it is also possible that Obama will call Netanyahu earlier this time around.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Kerry’s call was purely congratulatory.
“Given there is an ongoing government formation process, they did not discuss substantive issues,” she said.
Earnest said that he was not sure if Kerry had made the administration's concerns about Netanyahu's rhetoric known to him, and would not say whether the president plans to raise the topic when he calls the Israeli leader.
Netanyahu and the Obama administration have a contentious relationship.
Netanyahu opposes administration-backed talks with Iran over its nuclear program, and recently excoriated the negotiations in a speech before Congress.
—Jordan Fabian contributed.