Palestinian leader returns a hero
Mahmoud Abbas hailed after gaining recognition at U.N.
RAMALLAh, West BAnK — The Palestinian president returned triumphantly to the West Bank on Sunday, receiving a boisterous welcome from thousands of cheering supporters at a rally celebrating his people’s new acceptance to the United Nations.
An Israeli decision to cut off a cash transfer to the financially troubled Palestinian Authority, following an earlier decision to build thousands of new homes in Jewish settle- ments, failed to dampen the celebrations.
But Palestinian officials acknowledged they were undecided on what to do with their newfound status, and were waiting for upcoming Israeli elections and new ideas from President Barack Obama before deciding how to proceed.
Outside the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, some 5,000 people thronged a square, hoisted Palestinian flags and cheered their leader’s return from New York.
“We now have a state,” Abbas said to wild applause. “The world has said loudly, ‘Yes to the state of Palestine.’”
The United Nations General Assembly last week overwhelmingly endorsed an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.
The move to upgrade the Palestinians to a nonmember observer state does not change much on the ground, but it carries potential significance.
The vote amounted to an international endorsement of the Palestinian position on future border arrangements with Israel and an overwhelming condemnation of Israeli settlements in the areas claimed by the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, waves to the crowd during celebrations in Ramallah on Sunday.