Abbas Says ‘Long Journey’ Lies Ahead for Palestinian State

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returned to the West Bank and told supporters that a “long journey” lies ahead in the bid to secure international recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Abbas spoke to thousands of cheering people gathered at his headquarters in the city of Ramallah today after returning from New York, where he formally requested full membership in the United Nations. “Dear brothers, we are realistic,” he told the crowd. “Our international journey has begun and a long journey lies ahead.”

Abbas didn’t directly address the proposal by the U.S. and its partners in the so-called Middle East Quartet to resume peace talks with Israel. In the past, he has said negotiations can’t take place while settlement building continues.

The U.S. is calling for a resumption of talks and has threatened to veto any Security Council resolution calling for full Palestinian membership. The Security Council will meet to discuss the Palestinian application tomorrow. It could take weeks or months before a vote is held.

“We have told the world that there is the Arab Spring, but the Palestinian Spring is here,” Abbas said. “A popular spring, a populist spring, a spring of peaceful struggle that will reach its goal.”

After he finished, the crowd hoisted flags and posters of Abbas, repeatedly chanting the Palestinian leader’s popular name, “Abu Mazen.”

Favorable Response

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded favorably to the proposal by the Quartet, which is comprised of the U.S., United Nations, European Union and Russia, and will consult with his government before issuing a formal response, an official said.

Netanyahu plans to meet with Cabinet ministers to discuss the initiative after returning to Israel from New York tomorrow, said the Israeli official, who declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the record. Netanyahu’s initial reaction was positive because the statement from the Quartet calls for negotiations without specifying preconditions, the official said.

The Palestinians have indicated they are unlikely to accept the proposal from the Quartet. Abbas said during his return from New York that while he was still studying it, he won’t deal with any initiative that doesn’t demand a halt to Israeli settlement construction, the Associated Press reported.

Israeli Warning

The Quartet proposal came after Abbas spoke at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23 and called on the Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state and grant it full UN membership.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that UN passage of the Palestinian application would elicit a tough response from his government.

“That would bring us to an altogether new situation and this would have repercussions, severe repercussions,” Liberman said in an interview from New York with Israeli Army Radio. “Any unilateral step will without a doubt bring an Israeli reaction.”

The Quartet proposal lays out a timeline for peace talks in which Israelis and Palestinians would reach a final status agreement that would end the conflict by December 2012.

No Reference

There was nothing in its statement that indicated how the Israeli-Palestinian impasse might be broken, other than putting the burden on the adversaries to “overcome current obstacles” and resume negotiations “without delay or preconditions.”

Negotiations broke down a year ago after Netanyahu refused to renew a 10-month partial freeze on new construction in settlements.

The Quartet statement makes no reference to settlement building, saying only that the parties should “refrain from provocative actions.”

If negotiations resume “I will be the one who reaches a peace agreement between two nations, one of which will be a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state,” Netanyahu said in an interview broadcast Saturday on Israel’s Channel Two.

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