Thousands celebrate Abbas’s triumphant return to Ramallah

Supporters say he launched a ‘Palestinian Spring’; PA leader promises state will become a reality.

By NIDA TUMA, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
September 25, 2011 15:30
4 minute read.
PA President Abbas addresses rally in Ramallah

Abbas Ramallah Rally 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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RAMALLAH – The triumphant throng of thousands celebrating PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s return to Ramallah was a joyous expression of the rising popularity of Mahmoud Abbas.

Following his application for full UN membership, Palestinians crowded outside the Presidential Headquarters (Muqataa) on Sunday afternoon giving Abbas a warm welcome home.

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Abbas’s supporters began gathering at the Muqataa hours before his expected arrival. They danced to national songs by a local singer and passionately chanted patriotic slogans.

“I feel proud of the president, I came from Bethlehem to show my respect,” Salem, a student, expressed his excitement.

Posters were hung from the buildings pledging loyalty to the PA president. One of the posters read “you kept your promise.”

At the entrance of the headquarters stood an employee holding a metal detector randomly checking entering people. Another man at the entrance gave people Palestinian flags.



Abbas flew from the US to Jordan, and arrived yesterday amid reports of his desire to swiftly return to his people.

He placed a garland of flowers on Yasser Arafat’s mausoleum, and stood on a platform erected specifically for the occasion.

Minutes before Abbas’s arrival, politicians stood at the same platform greeting one another with kisses and hugs as senior officials looked cheerful.

Abbas stood a few meters in front of Arafat’s mausoleum and promised that the state will become a reality through peaceful protest and negotiations – but only after settlements are completely stopped. Abbas was lively as he talked to people, waving his hands and smiling to supporters.

“Hold your heads high with pride, for you are Palestinians,” he told the gathering. The joyous crowd raised its hands, forming a V for victory.

“He is the first Arabic leader to launch his nation’s ‘spring,’” Helwa Nijm told The Jerusalem Post.

Abbas said the “Palestinian Spring” would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The public workers’ union ended work hours at 1 p.m. in order to allow government employees to attend the rally, whereas the Fatah Party and PA-run television asked people to give their president the welcome he deserved after his speech Friday.

“More people wanted to participate today,” Nameer Khalaf told the Post, “However, Israeli checkpoints linking Ramallah to Nablus and Bethlehem held hundreds of people preventing them from participating in the rally,” he added.

The Popular Struggle Front leader Najwa Qablan told the Post that Palestinians know better than to be dragged into violence.

“The settlers try to provoke us by burning our trees and mosques, but we will not fall for that.”

Majeda Jayousi said she came all the way from Jenin to support the president. She said she did not know exactly what the statehood bid was about, but was happy because the president wants the world to recognize the Palestinian state.

The words “hero” and “leader” were used to describe the president by his supporters.

Abbas received a similar welcoming earlier this year, after the Qatari Jazeera channel published leaked confidential documents regarding negotiations with Israel. At that time, provoked supporters went out to show their solidarity after the Qatari channel signaled the president betrayed his own people.

The 68-year-old Nasif Abdo said the Palestinian train is finally on track to becoming a reality. Abdo does not expect a veto, and said he thinks the US is weaker now, whereas the Arabs are becoming stronger.

“The Americans failed in pressuring Abbas to drop the bid,” he said.

On the other hand, Al-Quds University Prof. Saher Kaabi said he does not expect the resolution to pass.

“I think the leadership will accept the French proposal if the statehood bid was vetoed,” Kaabi said. He is confident that nothing will happen on the ground if the resolution does not pass. “People are expecting the American veto,” Kaabi said.

The US had announced it would veto the vote at the UNSC.

However, some thought the US would not need to veto the resolution.

Wa’el, 25, believes Palestinians will not have the majority of nine votes needed for the resolution to pass in the first place.

Most Palestinians believe they will obtain observer status in the General Assembly, a position that would allow them to join UN bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian officials signaled that they would reapply to the UNSC until they attain full membership.

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