Abbas declares 'Palestinian Spring'
Thousands of Palestinians cheering and waving flags have given President Mahmoud Abbas a hero's welcome in the West Bank, and he triumphantly told them a "Palestinian Spring" had been born following his historic speech to the UN last week.
Mr Abbas's popularity has skyrocketed since he asked the UN on Friday to recognise Palestinian independence, defying appeals from Israel and the United States to return to peace talks. His request has pushed the region into uncharted waters, and left the international community scrambling over how to respond.
Thousands of people crowded his West Bank headquarters in the city of Ramallah to get a glimpse of the 76-year-old president upon his return from New York. Mr Abbas was uncharacteristically animated, shaking his hands and waving to the audience.
He compared his campaign to the Arab Spring, the mass demonstrations sweeping the Arab world in hopes of freedom, saying that an independent Palestinian state is inevitable.
"We have told the world that there is the Arab Spring, but the Palestinian Spring has been born," he said. "A popular spring, a populist spring, a spring of peaceful struggle that will reach its goal."
He warned that the Palestinians face a "long path" ahead. "There are those who would put out obstacles... but with your presence they will fall and we will reach our end," he said.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
Israel says it is ready for peace talks, but has rejected Palestinian calls to freeze construction of Jewish settlements in lands claimed by the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also rejected Palestinian demands that the borders between Israel and a future Palestine be based on the 1967 pre-war lines.
Mr Abbas last week asked the UN Security Council to grant the Palestinians full UN membership. The Security Council is expected to study the request for several weeks before making a decision, though the US - Israel's closest ally - has promised to veto the request if it proceeds.
As an alternative, the Palestinians say they will seek lesser observer status in the General Assembly - short of full statehood but a position that would allow them to join international bodies where they could push their agenda against Israel.