Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in Ashdod.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in Ashdod. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday slammed domestic criticism to the effect that he had damaged relations with Washington through his perceived preference for defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in the U.S. election.

"There are those among us who are trying to cause conflict between us and the United States. They won't get away with it. The alliance with the U.S. is firm," he said at a cornerstone-laying ceremony for a new hospital in the coastal city of Ashdod.

The premier was alluding to comments by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who said in New York Wednesday that Netanyahu's supposed preference for one of the presidential candidates had damaged ties with Israel's closest ally.

The warm welcome Netanyahu accorded Romney during the candidate's July visit to Israel sparked accusations that he was intervening in the elections by making it clear who he preferred to see in the White House.

"Following what Netanyahu did in the last few months, the question arises of whether or not our prime minister has a friend in the White House," Olmert was reported to have told New York Jewish leaders.

Netanyahu responded on Thursday that "we have a strategic partnership [with the US], we cooperate in all fields, but most of all in security, where the cooperation is deep, wide and firm."

He said - as he has on several occasions since the election results were known - that he would continue to work with President Obama in order to advance Israel's interests.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, one of Netanyahu's leading political supporters, had earlier told Israel Radio Thursday that Olmert's accusations were "absurd."

This led to fears by some media pundits that Obama, if victorious, would try to take revenge on Netanyahu in his second term.

On Wednesday U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro called these accusations "ridiculous."

Anyone who knows the president knows this is not how he thinks," Shapiro told a panel discussion at Tel Aviv University.