WASHINGTON: The White House delivered an extraordinary public rebuke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, after he said US criticism of Israeli settlement building ran counter to “American values.”
It was another turn for the worse in the tense relationship between President Barack Obama’s administration and Netanyahu, amid deepening fallout from a meeting between the two leaders last week.
After those talks at the White House, Washington strongly condemned reported Israeli plans to give the go-ahead for thousands more settler homes in East Jerusalem, prompting Netanyahu to return fire in an interview broadcast on US television Sunday.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it seemed “odd for (Netanyahu) to try to defend the actions of his government by saying that our response did not reflect American values.”
“It’s American values that lend this country’s unwavering support to Israel,” Earnest said.
“It’s American values that have led us to fight for and secure funding to strengthen Israel’s security in tangible ways.
“It’s American values that have led us to fund and build an Iron Dome system that have protected the lives of countless innocent Israeli citizens.
“It’s American values that have led the United States to fully support Israel’s right to defend itself. And it’s American values that have led us to defend Israel in a variety of international forums, including a variety of United States forums.”
In a portion of an interview with CBS Show “Face the Nation” that was carried online, Netanyahu said he found US criticism of settlement policy “baffling.”
“It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” he said.
Last week, Israeli Public radio quoted Netanyahu as telling Obama in talks in Washington on Wednesday to “study the facts and details before making statements” about the settlement plan.