With early returns showing the Likud party hanging on and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming victory, Republican senators who were chastised by the White House for signing an open letter to Tehran on Iran’s nuclear program began to swiftly weigh in.
The Times of Israel noted that voter turnout in Israel was 71.8 percent — the highest since 1999. Zioinst Union leader Isaac Herzog had not conceded defeat, but with Likud and ZU neck-and-neck Netanyahu’s party is in a strong position to form a unity government. Netanyahu said after voting that, should he win, the third person he calls would be President Obama.
“Against all odds:a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!” Netanyahu triumphantly tweeted. “This is a great victory for our nation. I’m proud of people of Israel who in the moment of truth knew what was important. Every family, soldier, citizen, Jewish or not are important to me! We will form a strong government to work for them.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was one of the fastest out of the gate with a response to the Israeli elections.
“Today’s parliamentary elections in Israel remind us of what unites our two countries and what distinguishes Israel, as the only true democracy in the Middle East, from its neighbors. Millions of Israelis took to the polls to choose their representatives, and ultimately shape the government that will guide their country in the coming years,” Rubio said.
“Now that the Israeli people have made their decisions, it is time for the Israeli political process to work. Whatever the outcome of that process, the United States will continue to stand firmly with our ally, Israel. We will stand by the Israeli people and their duly elected political leadership.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another potential 2016 hopeful, said Netanyahu “has been an extraordinary leader for Israel, and I congratulate him on what appears to be a victory today.”
“His electoral success is all the more impressive given the powerful forces that tried to undermine him, including, sadly, the full weight of the Obama political team,” Cruz continued. “American officials should not be undermining the elected leaders of our closest allies, especially when Prime Minister Netanyahu’s heroic – even Churchillian – opposition to a nuclear Iran has done such tremendous service to U.S. national security. The American people are proud to stand steadfastly with our Israeli brothers and sisters. May our friendship grow and prosper, and may the Nation of Israel stay forever strong.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Israeli people, “by their casting of ballots and voting for their leaders, showed the power of democracy in action.”
“I eagerly await the final results and the organization of a new government in Israel,” Graham said. “Israel and the United States have a long and valued friendship and alliance. We also have common values and share common enemies. I look forward to continuing to build on a strong US-Israel relationship as we both seek to address the rise of radical Islam and the threat posed to both our nations by the Iranian nuclear program.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest, when pressed earlier on whether Obama thinks he can repair his relationship with Netanyahu should he remain prime minister, said “the president has no doubt that the strong ties between the United States and Israel will endure … far beyond this election.”
“And that has been true for generations now. That the U.S.-Israel relationship is not one that has been subject, historically, to — to partisanship, and not one that has been subject to intense partisan political debate,” Earnest said. “But rather, because of our deep cultural ties, because of the deep ties between our people, because of our shared interest when it comes to national security in the Middle East, that the — that the strong relationship between the United States and Israel will endure far beyond this upcoming election, or the election that’s being held today.”
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— בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) March 17, 2015