Ramallah, West Bank — Joyous crowds welcomed President Mahmoud Abbas back to the West Bank on Sunday and celebrated the United Nations General Assembly’s de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood.
“Abbas, onwards, we are with you until liberation,” flag-waving Palestinian well-wishers chanted at their president, returning from the assembly which voted 138 to nine with 41 absentions on Thursday to implicitly recognise Palestine.
Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, gave civil servants half the day off to attend celebrations at the presidential headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The festivities included a ceremonial release of balloons in the red, green, white and black colours of the Palestinian flag into the sky. Palestinian onlooker Mohammad Stayyeh said he was there “to thank the president for the historic achievement and dream that he achieved for us and our children”.
Revelling in his most stunning diplomatic achievement in years, Abbas waved at the crowd and said, “the recognition of Palestine as a state changes a lot of facts, and aims to establish new ones.”
He suggested though that in the absence of a peace deal with Israel, the largely symbolic U.N. decision may have limited impact on the ground, at least for now.
“We have to recognise that our victory provoked the powers of settlement, war and occupation,” Abbas said, alluding to an Israeli decision announced on Friday to build as many as 3,000 new settler homes on land Palestinians want for a state.