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On The West Bank, Cheers For Mahmoud Abbas


Tens of thousands of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank took to the streets last night to celebrate their formal bid for statehood at the United Nations. Watching on large television screens set up in city squares, Palestinians reacted with joy at the uncharacteristically impassioned speech delivered by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was in Ramallah watching the speech. She joins us now from Jerusalem. Lourdes, thanks for being with us.

LOURDES GARCIA: You're welcome.

SIMON: And what did you see last night? What was the mood?

GARCIA: After the speech in Ramallah, people waving Palestinian flags jumped into their cars sort of spontaneously and started parading through the streets. So there was genuine jubilation.

SIMON: And what was the reaction you saw in the crowds in Ramallah to Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks that followed?

GARCIA: And while many in Israel thought want this issue to be settled, they're not in principal opposed to a Palestinian state, but what happened, you know, after the Gaza withdrawal where Hamas took over and thousands of rockets were launched from there, it has really scarred the population, the Israeli population, and so they really felt that Mr. Netanyahu laid out their worries that the same could happen in the West Bank.

SIMON: Do you know anything, Lourdes, about reaction in Gaza?

GARCIA: What happened in Gaza was really in marked contrast to what happened in the West Bank, and it made, frankly, the Hamas rulers in Gaza look pretty much out of touch with the average Palestinians. In fact, Hamas actually clamped down on celebrations in Gaza, stopped cafes from broadcasting the speech, and the reaction sort of sounded very similar to Israel's. They basically accused Abbas of raising Palestinian hopes and then only to eventually be dashing them, and Hamas and Abbas's Fatah movement are, you know, are fierce rivals, and yesterday was a clear boost for the Palestinian leader Abbas, with Hamas the clear losers.

SIMON: With the celebratory dust now settling, there's a long road ahead to a second state, isn't there?

GARCIA: But, you know, behind the scenes, both sides have already expressed their doubts, Israelis and Palestinians say the impasse is still there. Palestinians want there to be a full settlement freeze on building in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem before talks start, and Israeli says there should be no preconditions. So it's a non-starter it seems.

SIMON: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

GARCIA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.