But his fulfillment today of his promise to go to the UN Security Council – against American wishes – has gained him a groundswell of support. Among the chants coming from the crowd in Ramallah was Abbas’ nickname, Abu Mazen. Many held posters of their president.
“With 18 years of negotiations and false promises, he is giving the final ultimatum to the world and the UN,” says Mr. Saleh, adding that he has long felt negotiations served the Palestinian Authority and Israel more than they served the Palestinian people. “Now he has proven he is honest.”
In the square, which was recently re-named after Mr. Arafat, several-stories-high posters of Abbas and Arafat hung from the buildings.
“He was quiet for a long period and he didn’t do anything,” says 23-year-old Mohammed Barakat, walking through the crowd in Arafat Square. Now, however, “he’s like [Mohandas] Gandhi. A hero in everyone’s eyes… I hope they will give him what he wants, an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967."
But while Ramallah was a raucous scene of jubilation Friday, with crowds rivaling those of Arafat's funeral in 2004, Gaza City was quiet. Though many in Gaza support the move, Hamas, which rules Gaza and opposes the statehood bid, prohibited public demonstrations on Friday.
Activists and journalists gathered at The Gallery, a coffee shop and restaurant in Gaza City, to watch the speech on a screen in the garden. About halfway through, Hamas internal security showed up, turned off the projector, arrested the owner, and forced everyone to leave, witnesses said.