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Abbas Receives Hero's Welcome in West Bank

  • Robert Berger

Palestinians dance and sing prior to the arrival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the government compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 25, 2011.

Palestinians dance and sing prior to the arrival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the government compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 25, 2011.

The leader of the Palestinians is getting a popularity boost after submitting a bid for statehood at the United Nations. But peacemaking with Israel is in limbo.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas got a hero's welcome in the West Bank, two days after asking the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state. He was greeted by thousands of cheering and flag-waving Palestinians.

Referring to the revolutions in Middle Eastern countries that have been dubbed the "Arab Spring," Mr. Abbas declared that "the Palestinian Spring has begun!"

He said the Palestinians want to attain their rights through peaceful means, and he vowed that despite a long road ahead with many obstacles, they would achieve their goal of an independent state.

Mr. Abbas has been widely praised by his people for pushing ahead with the statehood bid, despite fierce opposition from the United States and Israel, who say Palestinian independence and peace can only be achieved through negotiations.

The Palestinian leader told the crowd that while he supports peace talks, he would not return to the negotiating table until Israel stops all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On Saturday, Mr. Abbas rejected an international proposal for renewing peace talks because it did not include two key conditions: a settlement freeze and Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state based on the pre-war 1967 borders.

The Quartet of Middle East mediators - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia - submitted the proposal on Friday, hours after Mr. Abbas requested U.N. membership from the Security Council, despite threats of a U.S. veto. The Quartet called for a resumption of peace talks in a month, and a framework peace agreement on Palestinian statehood by the end of 2012.

Israel has welcomed the proposal for resuming direct talks.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that the proposal is positive because there are no preconditions. Israel says freezing settlements and recognizing a Palestinian state on territory Israel captured in the 1967 war would determine the outcome of negotiations before they begin.

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