Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Tuesday indicated he saw no significant difference between the two candidates for Israeli prime minister.
“Today, there are elections in Israel. And frankly, the difference between Benny and Bibi — Benny Gantz and Bibi Netanyahu — the difference Benny and Bibi is not much of a difference between Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola,” he said, speaking in broken English.
Throughout election day, the prime minister’s right-wing Likud party argued that the PA preferred Gantz and his centrist Blue and White alliance.
Shtayyeh’s remarks, delivered at a conference for Palestinian entrepreneurs, were first reported by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster.
ראש ממשלת הרשות הפלסטינית, מוחמד אשתיה, מתייחס לבחירות בישראל: "ההבדל בין בני לביבי הוא כמו ההבדל בין פפסי לקולה" pic.twitter.com/gxOKLOep90
— Alon Amitzi (@AlonAmitzi) September 17, 2019
“We do not count on the outcomes of Israeli elections taking place today, because the competition is between two candidates who do not have any agenda to end the occupation,” Shtayyeh said at the conference.
PM Shtayyeh, during his participation at the International Conference on Empowerment in #Palestine: We do not count on the outcomes of Israeli elections taking place today because the competition is between two candidates who do not have any agenda to end the occupation. pic.twitter.com/NjXPCpmbCT
— PM of Palestine (@PalestinePMO) September 17, 2019
Netanyahu on Tuesday, during a campaign speech at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station, claimed that the PA had issued an “official statement” urging people to “go out and vote and topple Netanyahu.”
In fact, the PA had made no such statement. Rather, Arab Israeli author Mohammed Ali Taha wrote in an op-ed printed in the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: “Go to the polls and contribute to [Netanyahu’s] toppling.”
In August, PA President Mahmoud Abbas hosted two candidates of the left-wing Democratic Camp in his Ramallah office, and was quoted telling them that Netanyahu had refused to meet him multiple times, and that he hopes the next government will agree to speak with him.
Referring to those quotes, Likud claimed that Abbas wants a left-wing coalition, headed by Gantz, to replace the current government.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.