Abbas: Palestinian state an existing fact
Thousands of Fatah supporters gather at Ramallah's presidential compound to mark fifth anniversary of former PA Chairman Arafat's death, refer to Abbas as 'his worthy successor'. Palestinian president tells audience current battle is to have future state's borders recognized
The thousands greeted Arafat's successor, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with slogans voiced by the Palestinian Liberation Organization founder before his death, including "millions of shahids (martyrs) are marching to Jerusalem."
According to Abbas, an independent Palestinian state is an existing fact.
"A Palestinian state is a truth recognized by the world, and we are now leading a battle to have its border recognized," Abbas said during the rally.
He reiterated that the Palestinians won't compromise on their demand that peace negotiations won't be resumed before Israel freezes its settlement construction, and called on the international community to force Israel to comply with the principles of the peace process and Road Map peace plan.
"They (the Israelis) are pushing us to ask ourselves questions we don't want to ask – whether choosing peace was the right thing to do. They are pushing us to ask questions about the two states. Those who are trying to drag us towards a different solution are doing a dangerous thing. The world must beware the consequences of this thing."
The event was meant to be the first significant demonstration of support for Abbas, since the Palestinian president stated that he would not seek reelection.
Abbas lays wreath on Arafat's grave (Photo: AFP)
Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas organization, did not mark the event at all. Abbas slammed the rival Palestinian faction, saying that the Palestinian leadership won't let the PLO be destroyed. "The Palestinian revolution is the longest and toughest revolution in history, but it will triumph eventually," Abbas cried out. The audience chanted in response, "With might and blood we'll redeem Abu Mazen (Abbas)."
Abbas said Israel had developed a sense that it was beyond international law. He sent a greeting to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and called for unity. He pleaded with the masses to stop chanting slogans against Hamas and urged Hamas to accept the election results.
MK Barakhe: Israel using political poison
Nasser al-Qidwa, a member of Fatah's Central Committee and the late chairman's nephew, said that "Israel is responsible for the death of Arafat. We reiterate that he was poisoned to death."
Al-Qidwa, who has been mentioned as one of the people who may replace Abbas, also called upon the Palestinian Authority to demand that the United Nations recognize the independence of a Palestinian state.
"The Palestinians need to rebel against the old institutions of the peace process and to turn to the Security Council with a request to recognize the Palestinian state," he said.
Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) arrived in Ramallah and blamed Israel for Abbas' decision not to run in the January elections. "Now they are trying to use political poison and kill Abu Mazen's choice of peace. (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is besieging peace just like Israel besieged Arafat," he accused.
The masses in the Mukataa presidential compound were enthused by Arafat's voice, which came out of the loudspeakers: "We are the heroes. The Palestinian children will one day wave the flag of Palestine over the mosques and churches of Jerusalem."
All the roads leading to the rally's location were jammed due hundreds of buses and transportation vehicles organized by the Fatah movement. Palestinian flags, yellow Fatah flags and kaffiyehs (Arab men's headdress) were the main characteristics of the rally.
Apart from the many security officers in the area, the rally's participants were also greeted by many metal detectors and pictures of Arafat, Abbas and the two leaders together. One of the signs had Abbas and Arafat's picture alongside the caption, "The worthy successor of the former leader."
At the Mukataa we met Farid Abu Awad, who lives in the village of Samua in the Hebron area. Abu Awad arrived at the rally wearing a kaffiyah like the one Arafat used to wear.
"I am here because of my great love for him. We won't forget him even after all these years," he said. "Even 100 years we won't forget Arafat. He was our leader, the symbol. He was everything for us. He is the one who advanced and led us towards peace. Those who say he was a terrorist are saying the exact opposite of the truth."