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Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat Gets Hero's Welcome in Gaza Following Mideast Peace Summit

Aired July 26, 2000 - 1:23 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The key players in the Mideast peace summit are back home a day after they realized the talks were becoming pointless and the summit abruptly ended. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had a subdued homecoming. Right-wingers are angry at concessions he made at Camp David, and the left is disappointed he didn't bring home a deal. Barak now faces the task of having to rebuild his government coalition. Just before he left for the summit, two parties in his coalition quit.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, on the other hand, returned to a hero's welcome. Thousands of people lined the streets of Gaza to greet him upon his return. Palestinians marched in support of Arafat in the West Bank as well. They called on Arafat to follow through on his promise to declare statehood by September.

Although he doesn't bring back an agreement, Rula Amin tells us Arafat may have gained more than he lost in the eyes of his people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before the talks at Camp David concluded, Muhammad Saed Abu Wardeh (ph) was sure of the result. At the age of 70, Abu Wardeh says, after so many years of peace negotiations with Israel, he's lost all faith. "There will never be a peaceful solution," he says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They keep on postponing things: this round, the next round, this year, the following year. No use. They are liars.

AMIN: In fact, in Abu Wardeh's neighborhood, the concern here was not whether Yasser Arafat would be able to reach a peace agreement with Israel or not, the fear was that the price for any deal was going to be a compromise on Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.

The name of this street, by the way, is Al Quds, "Jerusalem" in Arabic.

Suad al-Hilu (ph) says she was sure Yasser Arafat is strong enough to withstand any pressure. "With God's help," she adds.

Yasser Arafat's stalled peace with Israel has recently faded his image as the champion of the Palestinian cause. But now, at this campus in Gaza, the Palestinian leader is receiving high marks for sticking to his demand that Jerusalem becomes the capital of a future Palestinian state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For sure, people are happy that Yasser Arafat is not giving in on the Jerusalem issue, that despite the pressure, he's not compromising, he's standing firm.

AMIN: Even his fiercest critics in the Arab world are giving him credit for not bending.

(on camera): Yasser Arafat will be coming back here empty-handed without an agreement, but he will have the support of many Palestinians for not backing down on Jerusalem.

(voice-over): In Gaza, they do acknowledge failure to reach an agreement can possibly mean trouble, both for them and the Israelis.

Rula Amin, CNN, Gaza.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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