OSLO, Norway — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he would be against a new Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, after elections left Netanyahu tied with his main challenger and raised the prospect of negotiations to build a unity government.
“Our position: against Netanyahu,” Abbas said during a visit to Oslo when questioned over his preferences for a new Israeli government.
His comments come after his foreign minister said the Palestinians would be prepared to engage in dialogue with any future Israeli leader.
“Whoever will be able to form a government, we are ready to sit with him or her in order to restart the negotiations,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters after the elections ended in a near-tie between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz.
Al-Maliki is accompanying Abbas on a two-day visit to Oslo.
Their trip comes ahead of a meeting next week in New York of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of donors to the Palestinians, headed by Norway.
The political impasse in Israel raised the prospect of tough negotiations to build a unity government or even the end of Netanyahu’s long rule, though rival Benny Gantz’s path to the premiership would also be met with difficulty.
Netanyahu’s office said he was canceling a planned trip next week to the UN General Assembly due to the current “political circumstances,” without elaborating
Al-Maliki on Wednesday reiterated the Palestinian Authority’s insistence on a two-state solution for peace, after Netanyahu’s campaign pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.
The plan, which would cover around one-quarter of the territory, would not annex Palestinian cities such as Jericho, but they would effectively be surrounded.
Netanyahu’s political rivals dismissed his Jordan Valley promise as campaign “spin” and it was met with widespread condemnations internationally, with many countries suggesting it would kill any hope for the eventual emergence of a Palestinian state.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the plan would violate international law, with his spokesman saying: “Such steps, if implemented… would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations and regional peace, while severely undermining the viability of the two-state solution.”
The United States, on the other hand, said the annexation of the Jordan Valley would not foreclose the possibility of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if enacted.
The Trump administration is expected to soon release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which the Palestinians have rejected outright over the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, steep cuts to Palestinian aid, and a series of other measures. It remains unclear whether the plan envisions Palestinian statehood.