Issues

150 House Members Congratulate Bibi in Letter

Obama yet to do the same

Benjamin Netanyahu / AP

Over 150 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday congratulating him for his party’s success in Tuesday’s Israeli elections.

"Your victory was no doubt hard-fought and well-earned," said the letter. "We wish you the best of luck in forming a new government."

The letter was organized by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) and included signatures from Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), among others.

"Please know that we are committed to maintaining a strong relationship with Israel," said the letter. "As you pointed out to us earlier this month, the United States and Israel face common enemies in the form of militant Islamic states such as Iran and Islamic jihadists groups such as Hezbollah and ISIS.  We believe that a strong United States-Israel relationship is vital in combating these threats."

DeSantis also issued a separate statement on Wednesday criticizing President Obama for delaying congratulating Netanyahu.

"The White House has so far failed to recognize the Prime Minister’s success, and this silence has been deafening," said DeSantis. "It is my hope that the President will put personalities aside, congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu, and work to repair the relationship between the White House and Israel."

Obama has not yet called Netanyahu to congratulate him, reportedly because the White House is still waiting for Israel to form its new governing coalition. However, the White House did publicly criticize Netanyahu on Wednesday for allegedly trying to "marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens" in the elections.

The Israeli Prime Minister called on his supporters to go out and vote on Tuesday, in order to counterbalance a group of foreign-funded NGOs that were working to increase voter turnout in the traditionally anti-Likud Arab-Israeli communities.

Several of these NGOs have received funding from the U.S. State Department. A bipartisan committee in the Senate has launched an investigation into whether any U.S. government money was used to try to influence the Israeli elections.

Josh Earnest, the White House’s spokesman, told reporters that Netanyahu’s comments were "divisive and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis."

Netanyahu told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday that he had received a congratulatory call from Secretary of State John Kerry, and expected that he might receive a call from Obama in the coming days.