Palestinian statehood bid wins broad support in Gaza, West Bank (video)
Everyone from Hamas supporters to shopkeepers in Ramallah have backed the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, but some warn that failure could lead to a third intifada.
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Indeed, while Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have led considerably different lives over the past four years, Mahmoud Abbas’s unexpected decision to approach the UN after two decades of negotiations with Israel has inspired hope in both territories that the stagnant situation could be changed.Skip to next paragraph
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“So many times we hear ‘no, no, no.’ Perhaps this time we’ll hear a small ‘yes’,” says Ahmad Samhan, a shopkeeper in Ramallah. “The only hope we have is the UN. We have lost hope in the US and the Europeans. Maybe the UN can bring something positive.”
Apathy, disillusionment elsewhere in West Bank
But if there is an atmosphere of optimism in Ramallah, the feeling is very different an hour’s drive south to Hebron. Shuhada Street, once the heartbeat of the city’s bustling marketplace, is deserted, the Palestinian shops long ago shuttered up, Stars of David splashed across their doors.
Here a Jewish community, one of the most hard-line in the occupied West Bank, lives in the heart of the largely Palestinian city, a constant source of friction that demands a continuous army presence for the protection of the Jewish settlers. It is a city divided, the Jewish quarter (where many Palestinians still live) under Israeli control, and the rest controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Many Palestinians here support Hamas and have little patience for Mr. Abbas’ statehood bid, which few here believe will amount to much anyway.
“There will never be peace, there will never be freedom here,” laments Idris, a leathery man who has witnessed the entrenchment of Israeli occupation and settlements over 20 years of peace negotiations. Just yards away, an Israeli soldier shades himself from the afternoon sun, his rifle slung across his chest.
In the narrow streets of Jenin’s refugee camp in the northern West Bank, memories of Israel’s military incursion during the second intifada nearly a decade ago are still raw. Many Palestinian homes were flattened and dozens killed in a 10-day assault dubbed the Battle of Jenin when Israeli forces raided the camp, attempting to rout militants operating out of the warren-like streets.
Ex-fighters released from Israeli prisons roam the streets in search of scarce jobs, and a faltering economy combined with the PA’s inability to pay full salaries to its employees is feeding into a despair that is little served by what many see as fruitless diplomatic maneuvers.
“People here don’t care [about the UN],” says Adnan Nghnghia, the local director of the Freedom Theatre, a landmark project offering an outlet to the camp’s inhabitants. “They believe weak leaders will never bring anything to their people. I’m proud of Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Salam Fayyad but they have nothing in their hand.”
'A very brave move'
Unemployment is high in Gaza as well, as is a rising feeling of frustration at the lack of opportunity the blockade has led to.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Ajrami sat with family members and neighbors in plastic chairs outside a dilapidated building in the Jabaliya refugee camp, debating the UN bid as children rode tricycles nearby and coffee brewed over a wood fire. Smoke drifted across the group as the conversation turned to how many Hamas supporters also approve of the statehood bid by Hamas’s rival.