Top Palestinian official: Israelis voted to maintain status quo, want apartheid
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Top Palestinian official: Israelis voted to maintain status quo, want apartheid

With exit polls showing Netanyahu on clear path to election victory, Saeb Erekat says ‘they want us to live under a deeper apartheid system than in South Africa’

Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

A senior Palestinian official said Monday night Israelis had voted to “maintain the status quo,” as exit polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a clear path to victory in the general election.

Both Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the rival centrist Blue and White party claimed victory Tuesday.

But updated exit polls as well as early results showed Netanyahu with a clear path to forming a coalition government.

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator and champion of Palestinian statehood, called Tuesday’s 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 that 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.

Abbas, whose government is based in the West Bank, reiterated that the Palestinian leadership would be open to negotiations.

But he has frozen ties with the White House over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and has vowed not to cooperate with the peace plan Washington is expected to release.

The Palestinians see Trump’s administration as blatantly biased in favor of Israel.

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