If the two-state solution fails, Palestinians will back a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with full rights for all citizens, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday.
In a pre-recorded speech broadcast on large screens in Gaza City as tens of thousands gathered to mark the death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Abbas, who has not visited Gaza since his allies were thrown out by Hamas in 2007, hailed his predecessor’s legacy.
“Our Palestinian people, who have always loved you as a great leader, still have that love, respect and loyalty,” he said.
Abbas said the Palestinians were pushing ahead to seal reconciliation and to achieve Arafat’s “dream… for freedom, sovereignty and independence on our Palestinian national soil.”
“There is no state in Gaza and there is no state without Gaza,” he said, stressing that the Palestinian people were “united” and “refuse divisions.”
He added that “The accurate implementation of the [reconciliation] deal and the full empowering of the government will surely lead to easing the suffering and reviving hope of a better future for all of us.”
Saturday’s event was the first such memorial in the Hamas-run territory since 2007.
The anniversary event was billed as a show of national unity after the Islamist terrorist group Hamas struck a reconciliation agreement last month with the rival Fatah movement founded and led by Arafat until his death in 2004.
The deal, which is supposed to see Hamas cede civil control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas by December 1, aimed at ending years of bitter division between the rival factions.
Tens of thousands of people from across the Gaza Strip poured into Saraya Square in Gaza City from early morning, hours before the keynote speeches were due to be delivered.
Participants waved Palestinian flags and placards calling for unity, as well as pictures of both Arafat and Abbas.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in a near civil war with Fatah in 2007 amid bitter recriminations over the Islamists’ landslide victory in parliamentary elections the previous year.
The last commemoration in the territory of Arafat’s death was held just months afterwards and ended in clashes between the rival factions.
Fatah has held other events in Gaza since 2007, including a major celebration in 2013, but Hamas has often suppressed its activities.
Although he remains a venerated figure among Palestinians, Arafat is seen by many in Israel as an unreformed terrorist who doomed the 2000 Camp David peace talks, orchestrated the suicide bombing onslaught of the Second Intifada that followed, and disseminated a still-prevailing narrative among Palestinians that denies Jews’ history and legitimacy in the Holy Land.