Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returned to a triumphant homecoming in Ramallah after winning a resounding endorsement for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations General Assembly.
“We now have a state… the world has said loudly ‘yes’ to the state of Palestine,” Abbas told the crowd of some 5,000 people who thronged a square Sunday outside Abbas’s government headquarters on Sunday. Many hoisted Palestinian flags and balloons in the colors of the flag.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine,” Abbas added. “The world has said ‘no’ to aggression, settlements and occupation.”
Abbas dedicated the “achievement to the Palestinian prisoners and martyrs who dedicated their blood throughout the long national struggle.”
The UN General Assembly’s decision to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state does little to change the situation on the ground. But the Palestinians believe the strong international endorsement will boost their leverage in future peace talks.
“More than 75 percent of the world’s nations voted for Palestine,” Abbas told the gathering in Ramallah. “And the countries that abstained congratulated us on our victory.”
Israel on Sunday roundly rejected the United Nations vote and announced that it would continue construction in its West Bank settlements. Israel also announced that it would withhold NIS 450 million in tax revenues that were to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority and use the money to offset debts to Israel.
“There was tremendous pressure on us to cancel our UN bid,” Abbas told the crowd. “They told us that the world would explode if we moved forward, that we should postpone the process, and change the contents of [my UN] speech…. We didn’t change it, and we won.”
Abbas warned of “creative punishments” by Israel. Referring to the latest settlement construction plans, he said, “We have to realize that our victory has provoked the powers of war, occupation and settlements because their isolation is deepened.”
Abbas also acknowledged the role of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, in the achievement at the UN. “Your people are continuing your path and are marching toward what you wanted — a Palestinian state,” Abbas said. “Your people have arrived at the day for which you fought and died.”