As Netanyahu Prevails in Israel, a Thorny Relationship Persists for U.S.

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from The New York Times,

Benjamin Netanyahu’s resounding victory in Israeli elections on Tuesday appears to have dashed any hopes President Obama might have had for a way out of his tumultuous and often bitter relationship with the prime minister.

White House officials offered no immediate reaction late Tuesday night to results that showed Mr. Netanyahu with a substantial lead after a divisive campaign that featured a national debate about whether the Israeli leader was undermining the country’s longstanding connection with the United States.

In a statement earlier in the day, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said only that Mr. Obama was “committed to working very closely with the winner of the ongoing elections to cement and further deepen the strong relationship between the United States and Israel.”

He added: “The president is confident that he can do that with whomever the Israeli people choose.”

If Mr. Netanyahu is able to form a new government in the weeks ahead, he may well emerge as an even more empowered antagonist for the United States during the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Any hopes of restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the Middle East — already a long shot given the prime minister’s disagreements with Mr. Obama over settlements — could be even further undermined by Mr. Netanyahu’s newly stated opposition to a “two-state solution” in the Middle East.

But beyond the substantive issues, Mr. Netanyahu’s victory means that Mr. Obama will not have an opportunity for a “reset” on one of his trickiest, most fraught relationships with any world leader.

But personally, Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu have never become close, aides said. The Israeli prime minister is known for being difficult. James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, once barred Mr. Netanyahu, then a more junior government official, from the halls of the State Department. President Bill Clinton famously disliked Mr. Netanyahu.

“This is a relationship between the president and the prime minister that you could actually see getting worse,” Robert Gibbs, a former White House press secretary, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

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