Palestinians say Israelis voted to 'maintain the status quo' in the election
Exit polls show Benjamin Netanyahu is set to continue as Israel's premier for a fifth term
The Palestinians have reacted to early Israeli election results that show Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on course to win a fifth term in power by saying that Israelis voted to “maintain the status quo” in the region.
Both Mr Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz were neck-and-neck in early counts, with 35 seats each in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, but Mr Netanyahu looks best placed to form a coalition because of support from smaller right-wing parties.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, called the results a “clear-cut vote” to maintain a situation where there are no peace talks and the Israeli government is making unilateral moves to change the situation on the ground with the help of the US administration of President Donald Trump.
“They want us to live under a deeper apartheid system than that existed in the darkest hours of South African apartheid,” he said.
Under Mr Netanyahu, Israel has tightened its occupation of the Palestinians, extending its settlement enterprise across the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, two territories they seek for any future state.
Amid a wider call for an Arab boycott of the vote, pollsters said that the Arab turnout in this election was one of the lowest in recent memory. Ahmad Tibi, a senior Arab politician in the Israeli parliament, said that the low turnout had damaged Arab representation at the highest levels of Israeli society.
Before polls opened, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he hoped the election would bring change and peace to the region. He said he hoped a new Israeli government would understand “peace is in ours, their and the world’s interests” after decades of conflict.
“All that we hope is there will be a just way, a correct way to reach peace,” he said. “We don’t need any government that doesn’t believe in peace.”
Mr Abbas has refused to engage with the Trump administration over its decisions to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Israel has refused to engage with the Palestinians in talks that involve other parties, saying that discussions should only take place directly.
Updated: April 10, 2019 11:38 AM