Netanyahu, on phone with Obama, pledges cooperation
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone with Barak Obama on Thursday and congratulated him on his re-election, after critics accused the Israeli prime minister of backing Mitt Romney and jeopardizing ties with Washington.
After Obama's re-election on Tuesday, some of Netanyahu's opponents - who hope to defeat him in an election on January 22 - accused the right-wing leader of backing the wrong man.
Netanyahu, who denies having shown any preference during the U.S. campaign, told Obama during the call that his re-election "was a vote of confidence in your leadership", his office said.
The White House said Obama had received messages of congratulations from leaders around the world and the president was able to return some of the calls on Thursday.
Netanyahu said he "looked forward to continuing to work with the president to address the great challenges facing the United States and Israel and to advance peace and security in our region," a statement from the prime minister's office said.
In a speech earlier in the day, Netanyahu said some of his critics "were trying to cause conflict between us and the United States" by saying he had shown preference for the Republican challenger.
"They won't get away with it," he said, in remarks that appeared to be aimed mostly at Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister who is considering running in the upcoming election, which polls predict Netanyahu will win.
"The alliance with the United States is firm," Netanyahu said.
Israeli media quoted Olmert, former head of the centrist Kadima party, as telling a meeting of U.S. Jewish leaders in New York on Wednesday that Netanyahu had intervened in American politics and might not have a friend in the White House.
Financial backing for Romney from a U.S. casino magnate who is also one of Netanyahu's biggest supporters was cited by critics as evidence he had tried to undermine Obama.
"We have a strategic partnership (with the United States), but most of all in security, where the cooperation is deep, wide and solid," Netanyahu said.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller)
(This story was refiled to remove reference to Netanyahu initiating phone call)