Palestinians across the West Bank on Friday prepared to celebrate the formal submission of their bid to become a UN member state, despite opposition from Washington and Israel.
In city centres, giant television screens were set up so residents could watch Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas deliver a historic address to the UN General Assembly, urging them to back the bid for membership.
Palestinians were expected to begin gathering at around 1500 GMT, shortly before Abbas is scheduled to formally submit the bid to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at 1535 GMT in New York.
Abbas’s address is expected at 1630 GMT, and the Palestinian religious affairs ministry has directed mosques across the West Bank to issue calls “thanking Allah and asking him to help president Abbas to fulfil our people’s dreams” immediately afterwards.
Streets in most of the main towns and cities were strung with Palestinian flags and bunting carrying the logo of the campaign to push for Palestine becoming the UN’s 194th member state.
In Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank, many had adorned their cars with the twin flags of Palestine and the 194 campaign, and posters of Abbas were pasted onto walls across the city.
Near the Muqataa, the seat of the Palestinian presidency, the flags of the more than 125 nations that have recognised a Palestinian state flew on flagpoles arrayed in a circle around a central Palestinian flag.
In the southern city of Hebron, the municipality building was draped with a three-metre (10-foot) poster of Abbas under the heading “Palestine 194,” and similar decorations were hung in the northern city of Nablus and in Jenin.
State television carried wall-to-wall coverage of the diplomatic drama playing out in New York, interviewing local officials and politicians and running a series of slick adverts backing the UN membership push.
One featured a jigsaw puzzle of the globe as depicted in the UN logo — with a missing piece. From the side of the screen, a piece in the colours of the Palestinian flag flies across and slots into place, completing the puzzle.
The three main Palestinian newspapers also dedicated their front pages to the bid, and the inside pages were dotted with paid adverts from individuals and businesses expressing their support for Abbas and the UN move.
“The president delivers his speech to the General Assembly and presents a request for recognition of the state of Palestine,” read the headline in Al-Quds newspaper, emblazoned over pictures of pro-bid demonstrations.
Another cartoon in the paper used the famous image of US soldiers raising their flag during the battle of Iwo Jima, replacing the US flag with the Palestinian one and the soldiers with Palestinians, some in traditional garb.
Al-Ayyam’s headline read: “The president presents a request for full membership for Palestine in front of the world,” while on the back, a cartoon showed Abbas at the UN podium shouting into a loudspeaker: “Freedom for Palestine.”
In the Gaza Strip, however, life was continuing as normal with no sign of any activity to mark the UN bid, which has not been backed by the territory’s Hamas rulers.