Now we have a state: Palestinian president

Now we have a state: Palestinian president

Now we have a state: Palestinian president

Palestinians wave flags and pictures of Palestinian President Abbas. AP photo

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned to the West Bank yesterday after winning upgraded U.N. status for the Palestinians, telling cheering crowds: “Yes, now we have a state.”

“Palestine has accomplished a historic achievement at the U.N.,” Abbas said, three days after the U.N. General Assembly granted the Palestinians non-member state observer status in a 138-9 vote. “The world said in a loud voice... yes to the state of Palestine, yes to Palestine’s freedom, yes to Palestine’s independence, no to aggression, no to settlements, no to occupation,” he told the crowd, according to Agence France-Presse.

Abbas pledged that after the victory at the U.N., his “first and most important” task would be working to achieve Palestinian unity and reviving efforts to reconcile rival factions Fatah and Hamas. “We will study over the course of the coming days the steps necessary to achieve reconciliation,” he said, as the crowd chanted “The people want the end of the division.”

Dedication to Arafat

Abbas was received with a full honor guard, descending from his car to walk along a red carpet at the Ramallah presidential headquarters known as the Muqataa, where he shook hands with waiting dignitaries. He laid a wreath and said a brief prayer at the grave of the iconic late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is buried within the presidential complex, later dedicating the U.N. victory to the former president’s memory.

Abbas called the approval a milestone in Palestinian history, saying it was the achievement of Palestinians everywhere. “Our people everywhere, raise your heads up high because you are Palestinians,” he said. “You are stronger than the occupation... because you are Palestinians.” While the Palestinians have expressed satisfaction and joy, Israel says it will withhold more than $100 million in taxes and other funds country collects on behalf of Palestinians to punish them for their bid to win statehood.

Israel’s Cabinet yesterday also passed a resolution saying it would not negotiate on the basis of the U.N.’s recognition of a state of Palestine in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, the Associated Press reported. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the government would use the money it was to transfer to the Palestinians to pay down their debt to the Israel Electric Corp. and other Israeli bodies.

This was the second act of reprisal by Israel. On Nov. 30, Israel announced it would press ahead plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. “We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel’s strategic interests,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday.