Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington on March 2, 2015.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP
March 20, 2015 5:37 PM EDT

The White House expressed doubt Friday about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after Netanyahu twice reversed his stance this week before and after a bitter election fight.

“The divergent comments of the Prime Minister legitimately call into question his commitment to this policy principle and his lack of commitment to what has been the foundation of our policy-making in the region,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in comments reported by the New York Times.

Netanyahu, Earnest said, had raised questions about his “true view” on a two-state solution. “Words matter,” Earnest said.

Ahead of elections this week in which it appeared Netanyahu was close to being unseated, the Prime Minister said there would be no Palestinian state if he were reelected, changing a position he had taken years earlier. He then retracted his comments later in the week.

For the United States, a Palestinian state alongside Israel has been a central element of Middle East policy, and Netanyahu’s comments soured an already tenuous relationship with the White House and with President Obama.

Earnest called on Friday for a “careful reassessment of our decision-making moving forward when it comes to Mideast policy.”

Friday was the second day in a row the White House has expressed anger at Netanyahu’s comments. On Thursday, Obama told Netanyahu that the United States would have to “re-assess our options” after the Prime Minister’s comments on the two-state solution.

Obama also appealed on Friday to Iranian youth, urging them to pressure their leaders to accept a deal over the country’s nuclear program, a deal Netanyahu opposes even as Iranian and western negotiators are still hammering out the details. The video marked the occasion of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, a celebration that Obama has used in the past to deliver message to the Iranian populace.

“For decades our nations have been separated by mistrust and fear,” Obama said. “A nuclear deal now can help open the door in the future for you, the Iranian people.”

-Additional reporting by Maya Rhodan

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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