(RAMALLAH, West Bank) -- Thousands of Palestinians gathered in cities in the occupied West Bank Wednesday in a show of support for the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.
The demonstrations coincided with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where the Palestinian bid is topping the agenda.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, around 2,000 people rallied in a central square as they listened to speakers on a stage. Civil servants and students were given the day off, and many of the students wore their uniforms and waved flags while others sported traditional Palestinians scarves.
The mood was festive and upbeat as the bid is a popular challenge to the world after what Palestinians say are years of failed talks with Israel moderated by a prejudiced United States.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to apply for full membership at the U.N. on Friday, a mission Obama administration officials have been trying to quash for months and now admit there's little hope of stopping. The U.S. has promised to veto the request in the Security Council, a prospect they are trying to avoid so as not to further anger an Arab world that sees American support for Israel as heavily biased against Arabs.
If the Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership fails, they will likely go to the General Assembly for an upgrade in status from "observer entity" to "observer state." This would allow Palestine to join international bodies and go after Israel in international courts, a threat Palestinian officials have repeatedly made.
American and European diplomats are working desperately behind the scenes to try and contain the fallout and bring both sides back to the negotiating table while allowing Palestinian and Israeli leaders to save face with their respective peoples.
Palestinians are largely realistic about the fact that no matter what happens at the U.N., little will change on the ground. Many worry that living conditions will actually get worse, with Israel clamping down further as punishment. But after almost two decades of failed negotiations, many Palestinians say they need to try something new.
Palestinians are asking for recognition based on borders before the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel was attacked by the surrounding Arab countries. That territory includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as the capital.
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