By Maher Abukhater and Laura King, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians signaled on Wednesday that if a right-wing new government takes command in Israel, they will enlist the help of the international community in pursuing their statehood bid and pressing war-crimes action against Israel.
With nearly all the ballots counted by Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party outpolled the center-left Zionist Union by a substantial margin, positioning Netanyahu to assemble a governing coalition.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator in earlier peace talks with Israel, said it appeared Netanyahu would remain in place as prime minister. On the eve of the election, the Israeli leader declared that there would be no Palestinian statehood while he remained in office.
“It has become clear that Netanyahu, who just said that he is against a Palestinian state and that he plans to increase (Jewish) settlements if elected, will form the next government,” Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio. “It is very clear that there is no partner in Israel for the peace process.”
The last round of peace talks broke down nearly a year ago, and while Netanyahu’s main opponent, Isaac Herzog, had pledged to try to re-engage the Palestinians, Netanyahu has made no such promise. He reiterated plans to press ahead with Jewish building in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.
Erekat said the election outcome “proves the correctness” of the Palestinian decision last year to join the International Criminal Court and sign onto other international treaties and organizations. Israel has denounced those moves as unilateral and punished the Palestinian Authority by withholding millions of dollars in tax revenues.
Erekat and others predicted that Netanyahu’s election-eve repudiation of a 2009 speech in which had had accepted in principle a two-state solution would galvanize international support for the Palestinian cause.
“The entire world is going to be with us,” Erekat said.
Netanyahu said in interviews and campaign appearances on Monday, in advance of Tuesday’s general elections, that his 2009 stance had become irrelevant because “realities on the ground” had changed.
Special correspondent Maher Abukhater reported from Ramallah, West Bank, and staff writer King from Tel Aviv.
Photo: An Arab citizen of Israel looks at a list of parties running in Israel’s 2015 parliamentary elections on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Arab citizens of Israel voted in record numbers Tuesday to propel a newly formed unified list of Arab parties to the third-largest party in Knesset, Israel’s parliament. (Daniella Cheslow/McClatchy/TNS)