Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called Jesus "a role model for the Palestinians", in a Christmas message from the West Bank.
Referring to Christ as "a Palestinian messenger," the President declared that "as we Palestinians strive for our freedom two millennia later, we do our best to follow his example. We work with hope, seeking justice, in order to achieve a lasting peace."
Abbas criticised Israeli restrictions on the entry of Palestinians living abroad into the West Bank, as well as Israel's separation, which cuts off Bethlehem and "steals land."
"We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation," he said in the Christmas message from Ramallah.
The Palestinian President is scheduled to attend Christmas in Bethlehem today.
Christian Arabs are not an insignificant minority in Palestine today, but "an integral part of the Palestinian people," he declared.
Abbas expressed hope that the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the region in March 2014 will prove to be "a good opportunity for Christians from all over the world to come closer to their sisters and brothers in Palestine, and for His Holiness to spread the message of justice and peace for the Palestinians, as for all peoples of the world."
He concluded that he was committed "to bringing a just peace to the region" through negotiations with Israel by ending the occupation and the establishment "of a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian State on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital."