In Gaza, meanwhile, residents have been cut off from the PA's reforms amid a four-year split between the PA and Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza. But while Hamas came out this week in opposition to the UN statehood bid, many Gazans – living under an economic blockade by Israel and still recovering from a 2009 war with the Jewish state – feel there is little to risk.
“In these circumstances of difficult daily life under daily Israeli occupation, what do we have to lose?” asks Salem Ajrami, who has been unemployed since Hamas took over the territory in 2007. “What should prevent us from getting a normal life in a normal state?”
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.
“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.”
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.