Popularity Rises as Abbas Returns to Ramallah

Thousands Greet Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

President Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, returned home on Sunday to a hero’s welcome. Thousands greeted him in Ramallah upon his return from delivering a controversial speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he called for the creation of a Palestinian State.

It is estimated that about 6,000 people cheered Abbas as he returned to work at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. They were holding Palestinian flags as well as flags symbolizing the political party Fatah, the party which Abbas leads.  The crowd also held aloft posters with a photo of President Abbas.

Hamas Missing

Conspicuously absent were signs and flags of the Islamic party Hamas, indicating that Hamas, the party which rules in the Gaza strip, is opposed to Abbas’ speech at the UN.

Despite Hamas’ apparent disapproval, it is believed that the bid for UN recognition of an independent Palestinian state, and the fierce opposition from the US and Israeli that this move has provoked, has actually improved Abbas’ position among his own people. Until now the common view of Abbas among the Arabs of Palestine was that he is a weak, uncharismatic bureaucrat who cannot stand up to pressure exerted from either Washington or Jerusalem.

UN Speeches Boost Standing at Home

Benjamin Netanyahu

Analysts contend that both Abbas and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN with the primary intention of impressing their constituents back home.

 “As absurd as it may be, these two leaders, the Palestinian and the Israeli, traveled to New York to speak to Ramallah and Jerusalem,”

wrote Sima Kadmon of the popular Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

“Just like Netanyahu took care to maintain his political standing in Israel, [Abbas] sought to bolster his image on the Palestinian street and in Arab states and boost Fatah’s position as compared to Hamas.”