Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a hero's welcome Sunday upon his return to the West Bank, declaring a "Palestinian Spring" has begun after his appeal to the United Nations for recognition of a Palestinian state.

Abbas told a massive crowd of supporters that he went to the UN to express the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people, as well as the frustrations, the CBC's Sasa Petricic reported from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abbas said the speech marked a new beginning for the Palestinian people similar to the "Arab Spring" earlier this year that saw citizens of several Arab nations rise up for freedom.

"We have told the world that there is the Arab Spring, but the Palestinian Spring is here," he said. "A popular spring, a populist spring, a spring of peaceful struggle that will reach its goal."

He also warned the Palestinians have a "long path" ahead.

"There are those who would put out obstacles," he told the crowd. "But with your presence they will fall and we will reach our end."

The 76-year-old leader asked the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday to recognize Palestinian independence, defying appeals from Israel and the United States to return to peace talks.

Leader's image transformed at home

The UN speech appears to have transformed the political currency of Abbas, as well as Palestinians' perceptions of their leader, a career bureaucrat and former official with the International Monetary Fund.

"He left here in many ways with very low expectations, and people saw him as rather boring, rather drab," Petricic said. "He came back something of a hero."

The Palestinians have applied for full UN membership as a state that includes the West Bank and Gaza, based on the 1967 boundaries, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas's approach is to get global recognition for a Palestinian state and then negotiate the final details with Israel.

Israel accepts the idea of a Palestinian state, but not one based on the 1967 boundaries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also called on Abbas and the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — a demand so far refused.