Palestinians take part in a rally in the West Bank city of Nablus yesterday in support for President Mahmoud Abbas.
RAMALLAH: Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of West Bank cities yesterday in support of president Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to Washington for talks with US President Barack Obama about the peace process with Israel. Demonstrators waved the Palestinian national flag as well as that of Abbas’s Fatah party, chanting “we are with you, president!” as Abbas was to weigh up an anticipated US request to extend the faltering negotiations with Israel.
“We’re here today to stand up to pressures upon us and make sure president Abbas adheres to his convictions,” said Nasser Eddin Al Shaer — former Palestinian education minister and member of Fatah’s Islamist rivals Hamas — who joined a 5,000-strong rally in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Some 1,500 people turned out in the West Bank administrative centre of Ramallah, and more than 1,000 in the southern flashpoint city of Hebron.
Abbas yesterday met President Obama in Washington, nearly a fortnight after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the same, and as an April 29 deadline for the nine-month negotiations loomed. Palestinian and Israeli leaders have been unable to move the talks forward since US Secretary of State John Kerry kick-started them at the end of July after intense efforts to bring the sides back to the table following a three-year freeze.
Bitter recriminations have taken precedent, with the two sides refusing to budge on key issues such as the borders of a future Palestinian state, security arrangements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the final status of Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as a capital.
Israeli President Shimon Peres sought to clear the air yesterday, issuing a statement of support for Abbas. “President Abbas is a man of principle; he is against terror, against violence. He is a good partner and I’m glad that our government is negotiating with him,” Peres’s office quoted him as saying in a statement. “We are all waiting for peace; it is the wish of the Israeli and Palestinian people.”
Israel has recently kicked up a new obstacle to ending the decades-long conflict, demanding Palestinian recognition of it as a Jewish state.