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Why Palestinians remain so quiet as Egyptians loudly rail against Mubarak

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority dispersed rallies supporting Egyptian protesters, but Palestinians don't seem eager to push back.

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To be sure, Palestinians are no strangers to protest. In the first intifada, or uprising, which began in 1987, they demanded an end to Israeli rule with general strikes and demonstrations. The second intifada, which began in 2000, was notorious for suicide bombings and other violent attacks in Israel.

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"The previous experience with intifadas did not bring any good," says Mr. Hammoudeh. "[The Palestinians] didn’t get a state, they didn’t get rid of the Israeli occupation, and, on the contrary, their economic situation and their lives went backward."

Hammoudeh also doubted the Palestinians' desire to retire Mr. Abbas, who enjoys close relations with Mubarak. "If they change Abbas with another man, what can this leader do? What power does he have?" he asks. "The real master, the real occupier is Israel."

Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Abbas government, likewise said Israeli settlement expansion is "definitely undermining the position and credibility of the Palestinian Authority."

But between dissatisfaction and action is apparently a wide gulf. In the Shuafat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem Wednesday, Yasser Kiswane says Israel would make life miserable for protesters. "They will close the fence and shut down all the checkpoints," says the computer salesman.

"Watching the protests, my memories return of the intifada," says Ikhlas Mimi as she was walking with her friend down a commercial street lined with soggy piles of garbage. But if there were a protest, she says, she would not go because she has small children.

Eyad Abu Mayala, a taxi driver, wonders what a demonstration would do. "Why do a protest? Against whom?" he asks. "We are under the Israeli occupation, but here we live better than in Egypt."

In what some viewed as a preemptive strike against potential protests, the PA announced Tuesday that it would soon hold long-overdue local elections. But Mr. Khatib said the announcement was planned before the protests erupted in Egypt.

Still, engineer Nabil Aweda says Abbas is a dictator "just like Mubarak."


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