By Samuel Burke, CNN
Israel is signaling a major change in tone toward U.S. President Barack Obama now that he has won reelection.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, gave what could only be described as a ringing endorsement of the Obama administration’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program. It has been a very contentious issue between the two allies, with the U.S. fearing Israel might unilaterally strike Iran’s nuclear sites and drag the U.S. into an regional war.
But Ayalon told Amanpour that despite past differences with the Obama administration over Iran, “I think today we can safely say that we are very much on the same page and will continue to follow the lead of the U.S.”
Over the course of his first term in office, Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had a fraught relationship. They have disagreed on major issues, ranging from the Iranian nuclear program to a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s relationship with Obama’s challenger, Mitt Romney, dates back to the 1970s, when they worked at the same company in the United States - Netanyahu’s preference for a President Romney had been an open secret.
Ayalon admitted “there was a special kinship between Mr. Romney and Mr. Netanyahu,” but said Israel cannot afford to be meddling in U.S. politics.
Still, many Israelis are worried about payback against their leader for backing the wrong horse in the U.S. presidential sweepstakes. On Thursday, the leading Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth even carried the headline "Bibi gambled. We'll pay."
But Ayalon expressed no doubts that the relationship would get back on track. “I have full confidence knowing not only the president’s commitment, but also his team” he said. “In a way I see an advantage by the continuity of the administration being very seasoned, knowing very well the Iran file and portfolio, to continue and make sure Iran won’t become nuclear.”
But Israel has not always said it would follow Obama’s lead. Israeli Journalist Ilana Dayan told Amanpour that Ayalon’s comments are in stark contrast to what Netanyahu told her just last Friday. “[Netanyahu] very, very strongly said if the United States doesn’t do it, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”
Has the U.S. election made the difference? Ayalon repeatedly told Amanpour, “We very much trust the leadership of the U.S., the leadership of President Obama,” he told Amanpour. “We have no better friend than President Obama.”
He then outlined the differences the U.S. and Israel has had over “timelines” for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program and their differences over whether the goal was to prevent Iran acquiring “nuclear capabilities” or “the bomb itself.”
Now he says, “We know that we will continue the consultations because we cannot afford not to work together because the issues are too big, too immense.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Netanyahu called Obama to congratulate him on his win. Netanyahu's office said he told Obama that the re-election "was a vote of confidence in your leadership."