Barack Obama has criticised the "divisive rhetoric" used by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the closing stages of the country's parliamentary election, shortly before he swept to victory ahead of the Zionist Union party.
Mr Netanyahu's Likud party returned 30 seats in the Knesset to the Zionist Union’s 24 - and is now likely to form the next coalition government with partners on the right and the centre.
But on the eve of the polls, the Likud leader made controversial remarks about the high turnout among Israeli Arab voters, warning that they were being bussed to the polls "in droves".
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Mr Obama, who has not yet called Mr Netanyahu to congratulate him following his success, according to The Guardian, condemned the incendiary remarks - saying that they sought to "marginalise Arab Israeli citizens".
The US president's response came after the Israeli PM appeared in a video posted to his Facebook page where he urged his supporters to go out and vote, saying: "The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses."
He also ruled out the creation of an independent Palestinian state and vowed to strengthen construction of settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.
“I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel," he said in a pre-election interview with a website owned by his biggest backer - US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
In response, the White House said that it was now preparing to 're-evaluate' its policy on the Middle East process.
A statement issued by the president's press secretary, Josh Earnest, reiterated his hopes for a two-state solution in the Middle East.
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalise Arab Israeli citizens,” Mr Earnest said.
“It undermines the values and democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”
In pictures: Israel election
In pictures: Israel election
1/21 Israel election
Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem following Likud's victory in Israel's general election
2/21 Israel election
The motorcade carrying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drives across the plaza before the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City
3/21 Israel election
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kisses his wife Sara as he claims victory in Tel Aviv
4/21 Israel election
Isaac Herzog, right, and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union party make statements in their headquarters on their party's future role following its decisive loss in the Israeli general election
5/21 Israel election
Co-leader of the Zionist Union party, Israeli Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog, delivers a speech as he reacts to exit poll figures, in Tel Aviv
6/21 Israel election
Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrate as election results come in at his election campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv
7/21 Israel election
Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party react to exit poll figures
8/21 Israel election
Likud Party supporters celebrate after the exit polls were announced, at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv
9/21 Israel election
A screen displays exit poll results showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin's Netanyahu Likud party and Isaac Herzog's centre-left Zionist Union neck-and-neck, in Tel Aviv
10/21 Israel election
Copies of ballot papers and campaign posters for Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party lie on the ground in the aftermath of the country's parliamentary elections
11/21 Israel election
Vandalized posters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near a polling station in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron
12/21 Israel election
A woman waves an Israeli national flag outside a polling station in Tel Aviv
13/21 Israel election
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his ballot for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Jerusalem
14/21 Israel election
Israeli MP and chairperson of center-right Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, takes a selfie with his wife Lihi (R) and his supporters, outside a polling station in Tel Aviv
15/21 Israel election
Ultra orthodox Jews line up to vote in Bnei Brak
16/21 Israel election
Israeli Arab political leader and head of a joint list of Arab parties, Ayman Odeh, casts his ballot with his children at a polling station in the coastal city oh Haifa
17/21 Israel election
Isaac Herzog (standing in foreground on L), co-leader of the centre-left Zionist Union party, poses next to his wife Michal as he casts his vote for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Tel Aviv
18/21 Israel election
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man casts his ballot at a polling station in Jerusalem
19/21 Israel election
An Israeli ceections committee worker prepare ballots at a polling station for the Israeli general elections in the city of Haifa
20/21 Israel election
A supporter of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, or Sephardic Torah Guardians, holds a campaign poster depicting the party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv. Israel's Sephardic community, Jews of Middle Eastern descent, have traditionally been the Likud party's backbone. But political analysts say Sephardim may throw their support elsewhere in the March 17 election, angry over the high cost of living and housing prices
21/21 Israel election
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, visits a construction site in Har Homa, east Jerusalem, a day ahead of legislative elections. Netanyahu is seeking his fourth term as prime minister
He added: “Rhetoric that seeks to marginalise one segment of their population is deeply concerning, it is divisive, and I can tell you that these are views the administration intends to communicate directly to the Israelis.”
Mr Earnest said the president would call Mr Netanyahu “in the coming days”, insisting that the move was not a rebuke. He said that in two previous Israeli elections, Mr Obama did not call Mr Netanyahu until he was directed by the Israeli president to form a government.
It comes as the US excluded Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from its terror threat list in an annual security assessment.
The unclassified report, which was presented to the US Senate by director of National Intelligence James Clapper in February, named Iran as a "cyber and regional threat" to the US because of its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, but did not include the country in the 'terrorism' section, as in previous years.
It was published by The Times of Israel, which said it had described Tehran’s assistance in preventing Isis from gaining "large swaths of additional territory" in Iraq.
The report also referenced the threat to Hezbollah from Sunni extremists trying to establish networks in Lebanon - saying that they have "increased attacks against Lebanese army and Hizballah positions along the Lebanese-Syrian border" - but did not label the militant group as a terrorist organisation.
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Hezbollah has previously been accused of responsibility for a number of terror attacks against US or its allies, including the 1983 bombings of the US embassy and American military barracks in Beirut.Reuse content