WATCH: Netanyahu heads to historic fifth term as Israeli prime minister

2019-04-10 10:21

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to head for a historic fifth term as leader of his country, while his Likud party and coalition partners are in the lead for a parliamentary majority.

According to Associated Press, 97.4% of the votes have been counted and the right-leaning Likud party and allies have secured 65 seats in the Israeli parliament.

Netanyahu recently caused a stir when he announced that he would annex the West Bank where Palestinians hoped to establish their own state.

READ: Palestinians see little hope in Israeli elections

According to AFP, more than 600 000 Israelis live in the occupied West Bank in settlements considered illegal under international law.

Netanyahu's election bid was likely bolstered by US President Donald Trump who has emerged as a fervent supporter of the Israeli state.

US support

Trump said on Saturday at the Republican Jewish Coalition that his administration plans to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory - land Israel seized from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981.

The US president also moved his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has angered Palestinians.

READ Embassy downgrade: Jewish board of deputies says Sisulu contradicts Ramaphosa

In South Africa, the government downgraded its Israeli embassy in line with an ANC 2017 national elective conference resolution, News24 reported.

The government argued that the downgrade was part of a strategy to pressure Israel to "exist in peace and security with its neighbours".

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies slammed the move, arguing that it would not advance peace in the Middle East.

"The SAJBD remains strongly of the view that an embassy downgrade would not only achieve nothing in terms of advancing Middle East peace prospects, but would run counter to South Africa's own objective interests, particularly in terms of stimulating foreign investment," the SAJBD said in a statement.

"A downgrade would further be inconsistent with how South Africa has always conducted its foreign policy, which has been to engage with all sides and never to resort to the politics of boycott."

READ: Netanyahu's annexation pledge raises ire of Palestinians

For Palestinians, Netanyahu's election portends a hardening of policy.

"There is no Israeli party talking about the Palestinian issue. Those that do talk [about it], do so in the language of a brutal occupation," Hafed Barghouti, a former Palestinian newspaper editor, told AFP prior to the elections.

"We have learned from past experience that we are always the victims of Israeli elections, and it doesn't seem there will be anything new," said 58-year-old Tayseer Barakat.

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Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  middle east peace
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