News / Middle East

Palestinians Celebrate, Israelis Express Concern Over UN Recognition Bid

Palestinians gesture during a public screening of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the United Nations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 23, 2011.
Palestinians gesture during a public screening of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the United Nations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 23, 2011.

Palestinians celebrated Saturday while Israelis expressed concern over Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's request for United Nations statehood recognition.

The mood in the Palestinian West Bank was quiet but jubilant one day after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked for recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

Ramallah resident Mohamed Madhoon said he hoped Abbas would press ahead with the effort.

He says Palestinians have the right to ask for membership in the U.N. like other countries. "We are optimistic, God willing, that we will have a state like the others," he said.

The night before, thousands of Palestinians cheered the U.N. speech of Abbas broadcast on outdoor television screens in cities across the West Bank.

Hebron resident Mufid Sharabti said the speech by Abbas, often called Abu Mazen, was an important step.

He says yesterday was the first candle for the Palestinian state lit in the United Nations. Everyone saw the support for President Abu Mazen and saw the happiness of the Palestinian people.

Arabic language newspapers praised the speech. They said it had bolstered Palestinian hopes for statehood as well as Abbas’s popularity.

Most of the Hebrew language newspapers said the U.N. bid would have little consequence since the Palestinians were not likely to drop their conditions for resuming peace talks which have been stalled for nearly a year.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his address to the United Nations Friday, called on Abbas to resume negotiations with him immediately and without pre-conditions.

Israelis, such as Jerusalem resident Haim Ben-Ami, reacted to Abbas’s statehood proposal with a mix of hope and concern.

He says the speech seemed to be directed to the Palestinian people and Arab nations. It is good, he says, because it gives me a greater sense of security in that Abbas has strengthened his position. And there will not be instability in the Palestinians’ state if there is a strong leader.

Tel Aviv resident Yossi Oran said it offered hope for a resumption of the peace talks.

He says we need to sit everyone down at the negotiating table and shut the doors until they reach an agreement because the Palestinians are at a boiling point.

But residents of the Gaza Strip, under the control of Hamas which opposes the U.N. bid, did not believe U.N. recognition would help the Palestinian cause. Gaza resident Salah Abu Ajram.

He says the United Nations backs the Jews and will never back the Arabs. He expects the world body will reject the application or if it approves it, the United States will veto it.

U.S. President Barack Obama says his government would use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block any resolution recognizing the Palestinians. Obama said in his U.N. speech that the only solution was direct talks between the two parties.

His remarks have drawn widespread criticism from the Palestinians and praise from Israeli leaders.

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