Palestinian President Receives Hero’s Welcome in West Bank

Posted September 25th, 2011 at 9:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told thousands of supporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah they are part of a “Palestinian Spring” and that he would resume peace talks only if Israel stopped building settlements in occupied territory.

Mr. Abbas received a hero's welcome Sunday as he returned to the West Bank from New York two days after submitting a bid to the United Nations for full recognition of a Palestinian state. The U.N. Security Council is set to discuss the Palestinians' statehood application on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking on U.S. television Sunday, said the U.N. bid is wrong and should not succeed because Palestinians want a state without first committing to security guarantees for Israel. He repeated his call for the Palestinians to resume immediate peace talks without preconditions.

But a top Palestinian aide shot back that Israel has placed unacceptable preconditions on peace negotiations. Hanan Ashrawi told television audiences that Israel “wants to annex Jerusalem” and “remove [Palestinian] refugees from the agenda.” She added that Israel “wants everything, and then says, 'Let's talk.'”

The Middle East Quartet, which is made up of the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia, has called on Israelis and Palestinians to resume pace talks within a month and reach an agreement by next year.

Israel's foreign minister said Sunday he favors the Quartet plan and called on Palestinians not to look for excuses to stay away from the negotiating table.

The Palestinian foreign minister has said the new initiative calling for the resumption of peace talks is insufficient because it does not call for an Israeli settlement construction freeze. Riyad al-Malki said the Quartet's plan also fails to require an Israeli withdrawal to the borders in place before Israel took control of the Palestinian territories in 1967.

U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that Washington would use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block any resolution recognizing the Palestinians. In his U.N. address, Mr. Obama said the only solution is direct talks between the two sides.