Middle East Buzz: Palestinian Bid For Statehood

The uncertainty surrounding the Palestinian's bid for statehood has kicked up mixed feelings in the West Bank and Israel. Far away from the posturing and news stories, ordinary Palestinians and Israelis have their own thoughts on the idea.

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Now, the uncertainty here in New York is grabbing the attention of people in Israel and the West Bank, which is where we go next. Far away from the posturing and the rhetoric, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has been talking with Israelis and Palestinians.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHATTER)

LOURDES GARCIA: Every day after the afternoon prayers in the Palestinian village of Mikhmas, the young, with their baseball caps and jeans, and the old, with their white headdresses and pressed shirts, sit on plastic chairs on this shady street surrounded by stone buildings. They drink coffee or tea and they talk. But there's only one subject these days, and that is the Palestinian bid at the U.N. for statehood.

YOUNIS: Everywhere I visit, they talk about this, they want this to happen.

GARCIA: That's 29-year-old Palestinian Younis. He's is also an American citizen. He works in New Jersey, a sign of the hard times in the West Bank that have encouraged migration. He grew up in Mikhmas and he's back for a visit. He says he's excited about what he terms the bold move Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is making.

YOUNIS: This is something we deserve a long time ago.

GARCIA: His best friend here is Khaled, the village barber. Also 29, he never left Mikhmas though, and he says that while the villagers are excited, they are also cautious.

KHALED: (Through translator) Yeah, there are lots of concerns about the future, about the uncertainties - whether there will be a state or there will not be a state. If there will be a state, what are we going to get out of it? If there be no state, what are going to be the repercussions? You know, there are deep concerns here.

GARCIA: But, Khaled says, life in the village has become unbearable. It's surrounded by Jewish settlements. There are five within a few miles of Mikhmas. The men have had set up a neighborhood watch because the settlers make almost daily forays into the village to harass them. And so, he says, whatever the outcome, he supports the bid.

KHALED: (Through translator) The Palestinians are going to the unknown, but despite this, change is better. Even if we are going to an uncertainty, it's better than the status quo.

GARCIA: Nearby are the old men of the village. Some of them were alive when the state of Israel was created 63 years ago. They say they want to live to see a Palestinian state sanctioned at the U.N. as well. There's a lot of anger here at the United States, which has promised to veto the Palestinian move in the Security Council. Ribhi Hassan says there is an overwhelming feeling among Palestinians that the U.S. only does Israel's bidding.

RIBHI HASSAN: American people is good people, but their policy is against us all the time. They are always with the Israeli 100 percent. They forgot we are real people just like the American and just like everybody else in the world. And we're looking to live free.

GARCIA: The men around him nod. In Israel, the mood is far different. Young and old also mix at the Jewish market in West Jerusalem. At a cafe, where men play backgammon and sip coffee, 77-year-old Arieh Daya says he's anxious about what comes after the statehood bid at the U.N.

ARIEH DAYA: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Today, I was on a bus, he says, and they found a suspicious package and we had to evacuate. It ended up being nothing, but I've been close to three suicide bombings in the past, he says, so I'm worried there could be more violence. But Daya says he wants the Palestinians to have a state with clear borders so that Israel will finally be left in peace. He remembers how it used to be before the 1967 war.

DAYA: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: There used to be a big sign, he says - border ahead of you - and you knew where things stood. Now nothing is clear, he says. Ajgai Gov is a 30-something tour guide. He says he's fed up with the situation too as it stands now.

AJGAI GOV: Well, maybe as a one-sided action, maybe it's not the best idea right now. But something has to give. There's no negotiation whatsoever, so maybe that will move - shake things up and move something.

GARCIA: He says the U.N. bid won't create a Palestinian state, but Israelis need to realize, he says, it will happen someday.

GOV: Eventually they're going to have a state - whether it's going to take 50 years, 100 years or 10, it doesn't matter. Eventually they're going to have - because the ball has started to roll, you know, the snowball has started to roll and nobody's going to stop it. One way or another, they're probably going to have a state. Where the state is going to be, what the border is, what's going to be the relationship between us and them, nobody knows. But I believe that eventually they are going to have a state, whether we like it or not.

GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR NEWS, Jerusalem.

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