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Israel’s Netanyahu Comes in For Criticism in Wake of Obama Win

The re-election of President Obama has left Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suddenly vulnerable as Israel’s own national election campaign begins to gather steam.

A strong favorite to win the Jan. 22 vote, Netanyahu is coming under criticism from political rivals who accuse him of having tilted toward Mitt Romney and alienated Obama, who as a second-term president could take a firmer stance toward Israel.

Opposition politicians are charging that Netanyahu – who has publicly confronted Obama over policy toward Iran and peace efforts with the Palestinians – is jeopardizing Israel’s long-standing alliance with the United States.

Netanyahu, who as head of the right-leaning Likud party plans to campaign on a platform of safeguarding Israel’s national security, has made several conciliatory gestures toward Obama in the days since the U.S. election, in an effort to smooth over differences.

Yesterday, Netanyahu called Obama to congratulate him and pledged to “continue working together.” On Wednesday, he summoned the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, for a televised congratulatory meeting and declared that security relations between the two countries were “rock solid.”

Netanyahu charged yesterday that the critics were making a futile effort to “stir up trouble between us and the United States” and said that the two nations’ alliance remained strong.

Still, in an election that is likely to also be a referendum on his threat to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Netanyahu’s campaign now has a weak spot, according to several analysts.

“Netanyahu is vulnerable on national security and foreign policy, because the opposition will argue that given his bad relationship with Obama and given the need to make critical decisions about Iran in the spring or the summer, he should be replaced,” said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israeli relations.

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