A senior leader of the Palestinian terror group Hamas on Wednesday dismissed the outcome of Israel’s election as irrelevant, as near-final results showed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc had won a clear majority in the Knesset vote.
“All parties are faces of one coin, the coin of occupation,” said Khalil al-Hayya.
He said there was “no difference” between the Israeli parties, and pledged that Gaza’s rulers — who are committed to Israel’s destruction — would continue seeking to “end the occupation and achieve our national goals.”
The Palestinian issue and prospects for peace negotiations were relatively absent from political debate this election. In what was seen as a last-ditch effort to galvanize his base, Netanyahu made a vow over the weekend to apply Israeli sovereignty to all Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
With some 97 percent of votes in the election counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party was tied with Blue and White, but his right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc held a decisive lead. The premier was thus safely en route to forming a majority governing coalition.
A senior Palestinian official said Tuesday night Israelis had voted to “maintain the status quo,” after two of three exit polls similarly predicted a Netanyahu victory.
Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian Authority negotiator, called the results “a clear-cut vote” to maintain the years-long impasse in the peace process, adding, “they want us to live under a deeper apartheid system than existed in the darkest hours of South African apartheid.”
Ahead of the vote, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had said he hoped the elections could help bring peace. He had not expressed support for a specific candidate. Abbas had said he hoped the new government would understand “peace is in ours, theirs and the world’s interests.”
“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.”
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been frozen since the US-brokered process collapsed in 2014 amid mutual accusations of blame. US President Donald Trump is expected to soon roll out his peace plan, but the Palestinians have preemptively rejected the proposal and are boycotting the White House over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.