Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Palestinian President Makes Triumphant Return; after U.N. Vote, Abbas Gets Hero's Welcome in West Bank, but Israel Holds Back Funding

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Palestinian President Makes Triumphant Return; after U.N. Vote, Abbas Gets Hero's Welcome in West Bank, but Israel Holds Back Funding

Article excerpt

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK * The Palestinian president returned triumphantly to the West Bank on Sunday, receiving a boisterous welcome from thousands of cheering supporters at a rally celebrating his people's new acceptance in the United Nations.

An Israeli decision to cut off a cash transfer to the financially troubled Palestinian Authority, following an earlier decision to build thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements, failed to put a damper on the celebrations.

But Palestinian officials acknowledged they were undecided on what to do with their newfound status, and were waiting for coming Israeli elections and new ideas from President Barack Obama before deciding how to proceed.

Outside the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, about 5,000 people gathered in a square, hoisted Palestinian flags and cheered their leader's return from New York. Large posters of the Palestinian leader, whose popularity had plummeted in recent months, adorned nearby buildings.

"We now have a state," Abbas said to wild applause. "The world has said loudly, 'Yes to the state of Palestine.' "The U.N. General Assembly last week overwhelmingly endorsed an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.

The move to upgrade the Palestinians to a nonmember observer state does not change much on the ground, but it carries deep potential significance.

The vote amounted to an international endorsement of the Palestinian position on future border arrangements with Israel and an overwhelming condemnation of Israeli settlements in the areas claimed by the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a return to Israel's 1967 lines. Israel remains in control in parts of the West Bank and considers east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital, an integral part of its capital.

Israel also continues to restrict access to Gaza. Israel withdrew seven years ago from the coastal strip, and it is now ruled by Hamas Islamic militants who regularly fire rockets at Israel. …

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