TEMPO.CO, Washington - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's re-election after a national vote improved the chances of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Everybody says you can’t have peace in the Middle East, with Israel and the Palestinians," the U.S President told reporters at the White House.
"I think we have a chance. I think we have now a better chance with Bibi having won," he said, referring to Netanyahu, who leads the conservative Likud party, by his nickname.
Netanyahu secured a clear path to re-election on Wednesday, and a record fifth term in office, with religious-rightist parties set to hand him a parliamentary majority, despite a close contest against his main centrist challenger, a vote tally showed.
"He’s been a great ally and he’s a friend. I’d like to congratulate him on a well-thought-out race," Trump said.
During the election campaign, Netanyahu highlighted his close relationship with the U.S. President, who delighted Israelis and antagonized Palestinians by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017 and by moving the U.S. Embassy to the holy city in May 2018.
The last round of U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.
A team led by Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, but it has not disclosed details.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in reference to the election: "Israelis have voted to preserve the status quo. They have said 'no' to peace and 'yes' to the occupation."
The Palestinians demand a full return to the borders from before the 1967 war when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu said on Saturday he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in office.