Abbas’s popularity rises after speech

“It is very important that Abbas did not cave in under the pressure on him to delay the bid or drop it,” says supporter.

By NIDA TUMA
September 25, 2011 01:58
3 minute read.
East Jerusalemites watch Abbas speech to UN

Abbas viewing party 311. (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)

 
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RAMALLAH – The popularity of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to rise among Palestinians after his speech, in which he formally announced submitting a bid for full-Palestinian membership in the UN to the Security Council Friday evening.

A crowd of about 10,000 showed up at Yasser Arafat Square in the center of Ramallah to watch the speech on large screens installed specifically for the occasion.

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Waving their flags, people gathered in public squares across the West Bank cheering for the PA president.

“It is very important that Abbas did not cave in under the pressure on him to delay the bid or drop it,” said Essa Kamal.

Some skeptics feared a change of plan at the last moment.

In the minds of many Palestinians, submitting the bid was itself as important as gaining recognition by the UN.

“People used to think Abbas is a man who would give in to pressure. His step today gave the people a sense of independence, and that they can be proactive,” said Kamal.

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The crowd chanted slogans calling for the establishment of an independent state, shouting “Netanyahu, bye-bye. We will meet you in Lahai [The Hague].”

People listened to nationalistic songs and left the rallies without watching Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech.

On Facebook pages, people who were not fans of Abbas showed a lot of respect for him. They posted a status expressing their pride at being Palestinians and thanking the world for the standing ovations for Abbas’s speech.

Far from the city center, cynics downplayed the importance of the bid.

“It is a big idea for a small country… you do not beg [for] your rights from anyone,” Rafiq Karama wrote. He added that UN resolutions are not implemented when it comes to Palestine, whereas the UN acts immediately on Libya.

Karama said he believes the UN is controlled by the White House.

Abbas had issued a decree for mosques to recite “Allahu Akbar,” and for the churches to ring their bells marking the end of his speech in celebrations.

These sounds were overpowered by the cheering voices of the crowds in Ramallah, but were thought to have an effect in far-away villages and towns.

It gave the speech a push some thought was needed.

“I wish the speech was more powerful,” said Adnan Naji, 25, who said the speech did not make the crowd overly excited.

Mohammed Salem, 40, said it was fortunate that the crowd did not get into a frenzy of excitement.

“People know the decision will either be vetoed or delayed,” Salem said, adding that realistic expectations would mean less disappointment.

Mohammad Nafe, 50, said he thought the speech was great, but expected the US veto on the vote to take place next week. Nafe said the best solution for the intractable conflict is to dismantle the PA and hold Israel responsible for its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Earlier Friday, the people of Nabih Saleh village near Ramallah went out for their weekly demonstration against settlements.

They burned the Israeli flag and pictures of Obama. The Head of the Village Council, Basher AL Tamimi, told a Jerusalem Post reporter that he does not believe in burning the American flag because they do not want to insult the American people.

When asked why he wants to insult the Israeli people by burning their flag, Tamimi replied he does not believe 20 percent of the Israeli people want peace.

“I am certain peace lovers in Israel are much fewer than before,” Kamal said.

Dozens of injuries were reported from the demonstration.

The weekly event usually does not end before nightfall, but the demonstration ended earlier because of villager’s plans to watch Abbas’s speech.

There is news that the Palestinian president will return to Ramallah this Sunday.

Palestinians are expected to throng to the presidential headquarters by the thousands to welcome him home.

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