(West Bank): Tens of thousands of people have
gathered in Ramallah and Nablus in the occupied West Bank in a
show of support for a Palestinian bid to secure full membership at
the United Nations.
The rallies started hours before the much-awaited speech by the US
President Barack Obama on the issue that has set the Palestinians
on a collision course with Israel and its allies.
Obama has vowed to veto the Palestinian bid, backing Israel's view
that direct talks offer the only route to peace.
rallying in Ramallah September 21 were aware of the diplomatic
talks taking place in New York, reports
Al Jazeera's Cal Perry from Ramallah.
"Thousands marched into Arafat Square in Ramallah and schools and
some businesses were shut as people came out in support of the bid
for Palestinian statehood", Al Jazeera quoted him as saying.
In Nablus, some rallyists said it was a big day for Obama. "Lets
hope he does not let us down," they said.
Obama is to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in an effort to defuse the
situation after his speech.
Recognising that Abbas seems intent to proceed, Obama is expected
to privately ask the Palestinian leader to essentially drop the
move for statehood recognition after Abbas delivers a formal
letter of intent to the UN on Friday, after his address to the UN
"The president will say, frankly, the same thing in private that
he'll say in public, which is that we do not believe that this is
the best course of action for achieving Palestinian aspirations,"
said Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.
Obama's stand has surprised the Palestinians, with the Palestinian
foreign minister saying he was "amazed" by the US efforts to
persuade other countries not to support the UN bid.
"They have used different forms of pressure, threats, and many
others, sending letters, sending ambassadors, etcetera,
etcetera... Amazing," Riyad al-Maliki told Al Jazeera.
Talking to Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom, senior Palestinian
activist Mustafa Barghouti, also expressed his surprise over the
"I think it is very strange that Obama will veto a bid for
Palestinian statehood, when a year ago at the UN General Assembly
he supported the idea," he said.
"Palestinian statehood will create a new political situation where
Israeli will be occupying another country."
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) under Abbas is
pressing for statehood after talks with Israel led to nowhere.
The Obama administration say that only direct peace negotiations,
not a UN vote, would allow the Palestinians to achieve the
benefits of statehood.
The new approach being considered would see the "quartet" of the
peace mediators, including the US, UN, European Union and Russia -
issue a statement addressing both Palestinian and Israeli concerns
and setting a timetable for a return to the long-stalled peace
talks, officials close to the diplomatic talks said.
The statement would also endorse the idea of "two states for two
peoples, Jewish and Palestinian", according to the Associated
Press news agency.
The White House publicly appeared to hold out slight hope that
enough progress could be made to stop Abbas from formally
requesting statehood recognition.
"President Abbas has indicated his determination to go to the
Security Council, so we take him at his word on that," Rhodes
The simmering situation is far from the scenario Obama envisioned
when he spoke at the UN one year ago.
"We should reach for what's best within ourselves," Obama said
last September in pushing for negotiated agreement on a sovereign
Palestinian state. "If we do, when we come back here next year, we
can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United
Should the Palestinian bid fail, Abbas could ask for a vote of the
General Assembly for an enhanced observer status, which is enjoyed
by others such as the Vatican, in which case no veto would be
While UN recognition would have largely a symbolic value, the
Palestinians argue that it would strengthen their hands in peace
talks with Israel, especially on the final issues that divide
These are the precise location of the border, the final status of
Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, water, and
On Wednesday, clashes broke out at the Qalandiya Crossing between
Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Carlstrom reported that Israeli troops had fired tear gas to
disperse an estimated 50 rock-throwing young people.
Several youths and one Israeli soldier were said to have been